The more than 1.5 million square miles of Western Australia are home to both a diversity of terrains and about 7,500 native plants. Western Australia has coastal, forest and mountain regions suitable for a wide range of plant life, including many species of trees, shrubs and tuberous plants suitable for eating.
For centuries, these plants have provided bush food, or "tucker," and medicine for both native Australians and outback settlers.
Bush Tomato – Solanum centrale
The term bush tomato refers to the fruit or entire plants of certain nightshade (Solanum) species native to the more arid parts of Australia. Solanum centrale, is also known as Desert Raisin, Bush Raisin or Bush Sultana, or by the native name kutjera.
Bush tomato plants are small shrubs whose growth is encouraged by fire and disturbance. The fruit of a number of species have been used as food sources by Aboriginal people in the drier areas of Australia. They have a very strong flavour and scent when ripe and fresh, so that one can actually smell a richly fruiting specimen from quite a distance.
Gathering your own bush tomatoes is not recommended unless you have an experienced gatherer to help identify the edible varieties. Some related species are not edible and contain toxic amounts of the alkaloid solanine
Bush tomatoes ripen in the wild in the central desert and the fruits are allowed to dry naturally on the plant before gathering. This process is essential if they are to be safely eaten with no harmful side-effects because during the drying process the level of alkaloids is reduced. Dehydration also concentrates the flavors in bush tomatoes and creates more full-bodied and complex flavor notes in the same way as drying in the sun modifies the flavors of many familiar spices from around the world.
Bush tomatoes are becoming commercially significant in the bush food industry. The fruit have a strong `sun-dried tomato’ flavour, often with a solanine aftertaste, and the dried, ground fruit is most often used as a flavouring or spice.
You can find some recipes on the BushFood Australia website.
You can purchase the spice or whole tomatoes from our local Bushfood Factory where they grow their own.