Bush tucker doughnuts and curries for Melbourne diners the latest tastes of harvest from Arnhem Land

Bush foods that have been harvested for thousands of years in a remote Aboriginal community are being turned into products such as doughnuts and curries.

Melbourne-based native foods wholesaler and retailer Outback Chef has partnered with traditional owners in Maningrida to develop a commercial bush tucker enterprise where the food is harvested and processed locally before being sold to southern markets.

Jude Mayall, from Outback Chef, said the first sample products had been developed and digested.

Doughnut mixes, curries and salad dressings are some of the products being trialled with the bush tucker from Maningrida.
(Supplied: Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation)
“We have been trialling a range of products, everything from mixed salts through to [Kakadu plum] bread mixes and doughnut mixes, we are looking at some great additions for salads and some marinades, curries,” Ms Mayall said.

“We are working on a whole host of really interesting products that can be made up there and then bought down south.

“So we sent the sample products to Maningrida for a taste-test and they were excited, they loved the products so that was really rewarding from our point of view.

“The main thing for us is we want the hub to be in Maningrida … to create some great employment opportunities.”

The bush food industry is the latest development for the remote coastal community, which opened its own fish processing facility earlier this year.

Clem Bresson, the enterprise development manager with the local Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, said the deal with the Outback Chef had residents excited.

“People have been asking for this for a long time; they want to make homelands more sustainable by creating jobs on their country,” he said.

Traditional owners have been hard at work harvesting large quantities of bush tucker such as Kakadu plum to make the sample products.
(Supplied: Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation)
“We have [so much bush tucker] — Maningrida green plum, Kakadu plum, white apples, red apples, root vegetables such as bush carrots and bush onions but we want to develop partnerships to learn how to [turn that into commercial products].

“We hope to be operating commercially in about six months.”

The push for a commercial bush food industry has come from within the Maningrida community.
(Supplied: Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation)
Ms Mayall said there was no better time to be entering the bush foods industry than now.

“If we look at what is happening today, people really want to know where their food is coming from, what is happening with their food, how it has been treated, the miles it has travelled,” she said.

“I think with wild food it ticks all those boxes, it’s great, it’s native to this country and now there is a whole lot more knowledge about it with some amazing chefs creating fantastic products.

“People are going into restaurants, cafes, catered events and they have started to taste native foods … so now they are interested in more products, so I think we are stepping into this market at exactly the right time.”

The Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia this week launched a three-year $2.7 million project for Kakadu plum research.