The Magic Behind Native Ingredients

Native ingredients are Australia’s natural treasures, and perhaps even best-kept secrets, when it comes to how nutritional and versatile they truly are!

Native ingredients are Australia’s natural treasures, and perhaps even best-kept secrets, when it comes to how nutritional and versatile they truly are! 

There’s a plethora of them across the country, whether it be Native River Mint in South Eastern Australia, Bush Tomato within the Central Desert Regions of Northern Territory and South Australia, or even Sea Parsley which is along Australia’s coastlines. 

Over the past couple of years, native ingredients have become a staple, and we’ve introduced them to all our sites across the country through our Native Ingredients and Flavours Program. Sites have the wonderful opportunity to order them through Indigenous suppliers and recreate any of the recipes in our recipe library that showcases the native ingredients. Not only that, but we’ve developed posters to increase awareness and education around the versatility of these ingredients!

These incredibly versatile ingredients lend themselves to nutritional savoury meals, sweet desserts, breads, meats, teas, jams… just about everything you could think of. Not to mention, they have excellent medicinal properties, providing natural remedies for ailments. For example, Native Pepperberry, while mainly used as a cooking spice in braised dishes, serves as a plant for pain relief as well and Native River Mint can be used to repel insects and even treat burns (Dissanayake et al., 2022)! Versatility at its finest.

Moreover, the connection to country that native ingredients create is one that is important to preserve through the generations. The next generation in schools across Australia are the best avenue in which this connection can move through. Many schools prioritise celebrating Indigenous culture and bringing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ customs to the forefront of education. 

One of the ways this is done is through the mealtime experience. Incorporating dishes that spotlight native ingredients into school menus not only nourishes students, but also passes the knowledge, nutrition and uses of these ingredients down generations. This also fosters students’ individual relationships with country and Indigenous history, empowering them as they continue their education. 

Incorporating native ingredients into mealtimes year-round, as well as with emphasis on occasions such as National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week and, can be essential as it creates a strong, culturally supportive environment. With the Native Ingredients and Flavours Program, sites can order these unique and versatile ingredients whenever they like, and create Indigenous specialties year-round.

Many of our schools and colleges, such as Union College in Queensland, created outstanding native ingredients menus this year, which was emphasised across NAIDOC Week. The menu included Saltbush, Pepperberry and Native Mint Roast Lamb, Apple, Cherry & Wattleseed Crumble and Lemon Myrtle Baked Barra (pictured below)! 

St Teresa’s College Abergowrie also led the way and went one step further in NAIDOC celebrations by not only utilising native ingredients, but also by conducting activities (pictured below), which tied the entire celebration together. 

Indigenous catering being a part of the mealtime experience recognises and supports Indigenous students’ connection to land, spirituality, family, and community, when they may be boarding or are far from home. A culturally supportive atmosphere can alleviate homesickness, provide opportunity for conversation and time to relax.

Some of our favourite dishes that incorporate native ingredients include:

There’s always a little magic behind every native ingredient…

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