Plants of Tasmania Nursery

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Institute for Healthy Communities Australia Limited

Edible Plants

Many native Tasmanian plants have edible parts. Fruits, shoots, berries, leaves, seeds, sap, flowers, pollen or tubers may be eaten for some species. While much has been lost, some knowledge of these foods is retained within the Tasmanian indigenous community, and other plants used as food were recorded by early European botanists. Other information has been obtained from archaeological sites, while some comes from indigenous people of the mainland for species that also occur there.

WARNING: Please note that the information presented here has been obtained from a number of sources. We pass it on in good faith, but we advise caution. As well as many plants being edible, others are poisonous (sometimes on the same plant). Be very cautious if you are experimenting, and make sure of your identification! The best way to be sure is to buy plants from us and grow them in your garden.

Much of this information was originally published in a pamphlet produced for Plants of Tasmania Nursery by Kris Schaffer. Any comments are welcome.

Click on the species name to go to cultivation notes and prices.

Species Name Common name Notes
Berries and Fruit    
Aristotelia peduncularis Heart Berry Fat, fairly hollow berries, often heart-shaped. Occurs in moist shady forests in summer/autumn. Can be bitter in taste.
Billardiera longiflora Climbing Blue Berry A vigorous vine with cream tubular flowers in spring followed in summer and autumn by shiny purple-blue berries. Like the heart berry they are typically hollow. These berries are ideal for jam, jelly or chutney.
Billardiera mutablis Apple Berry A vine from northern Tasmania. The berries are still a pale green colour when ripe. It is recommended you spit the seed and rough skins out. The flesh is quite sweet with a flavour described as being similar to stewed apples. The fruit ripens in autumn.
Carpobrotus rossii Pigface This prostrate coastal succulent plant has purple flowers and edible reddish fruits in summer. This is a great fruit, a bit like a salty fig. Suck out the tiny seed and sweet pulp from the base of the flowering stem. The green leaves can also be eaten in a salad or cooked.
Coprosma hirtella Coffee Berry A bush to 1.5m with pale green rounded leaves. The reddish berries on female plants are edible when almost red-black.
Coprosma moorei Blue-berried Coprosma Ground-hugging alpine plants with tiny, succulent edible blue berries.
Coprosma nitida Currant Bush Prickly bush to 1.5 m or more. The female plants can be laden with shiny orange berries in autumn. The Silvereyes will tell you when they are ripe. Nice in pies, cakes and tarts.
Coprosma pumila Creeping Coprosma An alpine plant from the central plateau. Female plants have tiny edible orange-red berries.
Coprosma quadrifida Currant Bush Prickly bush to 1.5 m or more. The female plants can be laden with shiny orange berries in autumn. Nice in pies, cakes and tarts.
Dianella tasmanica Tasman Flax Lily The berries from this hardy strap-leaved plant can be made into jam.
Gaulthiera hispida Snow Berry This bush for shady, moist sites comes alive in summer to autumn with the whitest of white berry-like fruit. David Tng gives them a rating of 4/5.
Michrocachys tetragona Creeping Strawberry Pine Female plants of this prostrate alpine conifer bear tiny, raspberry-like fruit in late summer and autumn. Yum.
Podocarpus lawrencei Mountain Plum Pine Another conifer, with small, red edible berries on female plants.
Rubus gunnianus Alpine Raspberry A prostrate, suckering prickly plant that can be invasive in a moist spot that has tiny red fruits in summer on female plants.
Rubus parvifolius Native Raspberry A hardy trailing or climbing plant to 1.5m with small, hooked thorns. Pink flowers in summer followed by small, red, edible berries.
Sambucus gaudichaudiana White Elderberry A small shrub to 1m with with white flowers followed by aromatic, edible berries. Add water to dried berries to create beautiful, sweet aromas. Highly recommended.
Solanum laciniatum Kangaroo Apple The Tasmanian representative of this widespread Australian genus that contains many poisonous and edible plants (and, overseas, spuds and tomatoes). The fruit of the Kangaroo Apple is poisonous when green, but edible when ripening to yellow or orange, so treat with caution. The fruit are high in Vitamin C, and make a great chutney.
Tasmannia lanceolata Native Pepper Our most famous food plant. Both the leaves and the berries (on female plants) have a wonderful spicy flavour. They can be dried, frozen or pickled. Many new products using this plant keep cropping up.
Leaves and Teas    
Acaena species Buzzy Leaves can be infused for tea.
Acacia mearnsii Black Wattle A bark tea can be used for indigestion. Caution: Contains tannins.
Baeckea gunniana Alpine Baeckea Leaves can be used in cooking (e.g. scones and roasts) or as a refreshing tea. Lemon tasting and aromatic. Leaves can be used fresh or dried.
Barbarea australis Austral Wintercress Quick growing Brassica with tasty, peppery leaves. Probably best to treat the plant as an annual like you would a lettuce or broccoli.
Carprobrotus rossii Pigface The succulent green leaves of this coastal ground-cover can be eaten in a salad or cooked.
Correa alba White Correa Leaves can be infused for tea.
Kennedia prostrata Running Postman Another mainly coastal plant. The leaves can be infused for tea, the stems can be used for twine and the nectar from the flower a drink.
Kunzea ambigua Sweet-scented Kunzea Can be infused as a tea and included as a flavouring in cooking.
Leptospermum rupestre Mountain Tee Tree Makes a very nice tea. Leptospermum riparium and L. lanigerum can also be used for tea and food flavouring.
Phebalium montanum Alpine Phebalium Leaves of this beautiful groundcover can be used in a salad (e.g. potato).
Tetragonia implexicoma Bower Spinach or Ice Plant Leaves can be used as a salad, steamed, or as a substitute in spinach pie. It is a good idea to the blanch the leaves for a few minutes before serving or cooking.
Tetragonia tetragonoides Warrigal Greens or NZ Spinach Has a long history of European use (and probably indigenous use). Used by Captain Cook to ward off scurvy in NZ, and by French explorers in Tasmania. Still grown in France as a green vegetable. Leaves can be used as a salad, steamed, or as a substitute in spinach pie. As for the other Tetragonia, it is a good idea to the blanch the leaves for a few minutes before serving or cooking.
Seeds    
Acacia spp. Wattles Wattle seeds have a high protein content, and are used in biscuits, ice cream and chocolate. The dried seeds are commonly roasted and ground. Green pods can also be cooked on a cool fire and the green seeds eaten. Tasmanian wattle seeds that can be eaten include A. mucronata, A. leprosa ssp graveolens, A. verticillata, A. melanoxylon, A. dealbata, and A. sophorae.
Bulbine glauca Rock Lily The seeds can be eaten like peas. The roots can also be eaten.
Flowers, Nectar and Pollen    
Banksia marginata and Banksia serrata Banksias Pour a cup of warm water over the flower spike to get the nectar. (Note: leave the flowers on bush for the pygmy possums and honeyeaters, and so the plants can set seed.)

Callistemon spp.

Bottlebrushes As for Banksias
Grevillea australis Southern Grevillea Nectar can be sucked flowers or the flowers used as a garnish on salads.

Hakea spp.

Hakeas As for Grevilleas.
Kennedia prostrata Running Postman Nectar from flowers, which make a colorful garnish for a salad.
Melaleuca spp. Paperbarks Pollen from flowers can be eaten.
Richea scoparia Scoparia Nectar can be eaten - don't get spiked!
Telopea truncata Waratah Nectar can be eaten.

Viola hederaceae

Native Violet Flowers can be used in a salad or as a garnish. Coat flowers with beaten egg white and dust with icing sugar! Great for cakes or for children with ice cream or deserts.
Wahlenbergia stricta Bluebell As for the Native Violet.
Xanthorhoea sp. Grasstree Pour water over cones for nectar, or pick a few flowers and infuse.
Edible Roots and Growth Tips    
Arthropodium milleflorum Vanilla Lily Tubers can be eaten raw or roasted.
Bulbine bulbosa and B. glauca Yellow Rock Lily The roots can be eaten raw or cooked. Note that B. semibarbata roots are inedible.
Lomandra longifolia Sagg Young, white shoots can be eaten raw, having a pleasant nutty flavour.
Triglochon procerum Water Ribbons The thick, tuberous roots can be pan-fried or roasted. (They make great chips!)
Saps and Gums    
Acacia mearnsii Black Wattle Indigenous Tasmanians would wound the trunk in autumn to ensure a good flow of gum, then the balls of gum were kept and carried about. They were eaten or dissolved in water with flower nectar to make sweet drinks.
Eucalyptus gunnii Cider Gum The tree can be wounded (your own, of course, not those in the bush) and the sap collected in a receptacle and then used to make a syrup (like is done for maple syrup), or, as in olden times, to make an intoxicating beverage.

 

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