Australian Native Spices – The “Lost” Spices

Herbie’s Spices is highlighting a variety of Australian spices this month including: Akudjura, Lemon Myrtle, Saltbush and Wattleseed.

 “We’ve specifically chosen to profile these spices to generate awareness of Australia’s own contribution to the world of spices. In recent years our society has embraced many spices in their everyday cooking from Asia and Europe. However, we have some great native spices which can enhance a plethora of meals!” says, owners of Herbie’s Spices, Ian and Liz Hemphill.

Akudjura (pronounced with the emphasis on the “CUD: syllable) is the ground form of the Australian native berries called Bush Tomatoes. It is believed to be among the oldest spice known to the human race, as the Australian Aborigines have been using them for thousands of years. Other common names for Akudjura include; desert raisin, akudjera or akatyerre.

The flavour of Akudjura is initially caramel like, yet after about 30 seconds develops a some-what bitter, lingering aftertaste that has been known to leave the palate unexpectedly refreshed! It’s one of the featured spices in the Herbie’s recipe of the month – Aussie Spiced Nuts!

“There are many familiar recipes you can add akudjura to. It balances beautifully with carbohydrates, adding a great flavour to Anzac biscuits and apple crumble.   The recipe on the pack for Akudjura Risotto highlights the variety of uses this ancient spice can be applied to” adds Ian.

Lemon Myrtle Leaf is one of the most useful of the Australian native herbs and spices and is Herbie’s culinary favourite. Although there are no records to establish exact antiquity of Australian native herbs and spices, these hardy, yet frost-sensitive trees have been growing wild in coastal areas of NSW, VIC & SA for many thousands of years.

The flavour is distinctly lemony and tangy, with pronounced lime zest notes. When cooking with lemon myrtle, use caution as too much or cooking for too long the flavour giving volatile oils will be destroyed, leaving a sharp, slightly eucalyptus flavour.

“Lemon Myrtle is my favourite culinary herb because it is so easy to use. I sprinkle it in seafood when barbecuing, rub a chicken with it before roasting, and make a delicious lemon myrtle cream or yoghurt to accompany desserts,” adds Ian.

Saltbush, which is also included in the recipe of the month, may be used as a salt substitute. The plant can grow up to 3 meters high and can spread up to 5 meters wide – so it’s not hard to miss with its distinctive silvery-green leaves.

Saltbush is also known as Old Man Saltbush, and it is one of the best ways to add a gentle taste of salt to combinations of Australian native ingredients. Whilst it is distinctly salty in flavour, it has less than 20% of the sodium content of salt, so it’s lovely to use in a reduced-salt diet. We’ve had fun playing with it, and you’ll love the recipe for Aussie-spiced macadamias (or nuts of your choice) that we’ve put on the back of the pack.

Wattleseed, the final Australian Native Spice that Herbie’s is profiling this month, only has a few varieties, which are edible. The others being poisonous, therefore the gathering of one’s own wattle seeds should only be conducted with an expert in attendance.

Wattleseed is again a very versatile spice and is perfect for sweet dishes such as ice-creams, sorbets and whipped cream, and is also delightful with chicken, lamb and fish.

“I’ve found that when a small amount is blended with ground coriander seed and sprinkled over the top of the meal being prepared (such as chicken) before cooking, will add a subtle barbeque note that is far more appealing to the Australian palate than the popular American natural hickory-smoke flavour.

“Australia is very fortunate to have a real variety of native spices which can be used in a multitude of dishes, with barbeques and the festive season right around the corner, why not add a pinch of home-grown spice to your next meal and really make it “home cooked”” finishes Ian.

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