Take eating local one step further and grow your own native edibles. It’s not only delicious, attracts native wildlife but often requires less work on your behalf because Australian plants are generally hardy just like the environments they usually grow in. I’ve listed a few to get you started.
Fingers limes are native to the understory of SE Queensland and NSW. Their flesh has the same texture as a lime but comes in the form of numerous little citrus balls, otherwise known/marketed as ‘lime caviar’. Different species produce different colours and flavours.
They are small, shrubby trees that grow to 3-10m in height. They can also be grown in a pot. They can tolerate shade and sun, like a soil pH of 6 – 8 and do fine without a whole lot of love. Native citrus need just ¼ of the fertilizer used on other citrus trees. They are thorny though, so be careful when picking fruit. I have seen people use elbow length gloves when retrieving the limes from these bad boys!
The macadamia is native to eastern Australia. It can grow up to 20m in height but with some yearly pruning, can fit nicely into a reasonable sized home garden. They suit frost-free temperate to tropical climates. They like well-drained soils, and a good supply of nitrogen and potassium. Keep phosphorous levels low – natives have adapted to like it that way.
Trees take 5 years after planting a grafted specimen before the tree produces a significant crop but once they reach this stage they produce a LOT of macadamias. The nuts can be eaten raw, roasted, fried or made into nut butters, biscuits, cakes and pies – delicious! They are also nutritionally great for you and contain no cholesterol. What’s NOT to love about the Macadamia?
Cape York Lily (Curcuma australasica)
The Cape York Lily is our native version of turmeric. It is is relatively hardy and can be grown in temperate climates as well as tropical. It grows to ~1m in height and prefers part shade, moist well-drained soil with protection from the wind. It has small yellow flowers and bright pink bracts. The rhizomes can be harvested when the foliage dies back in winter. The rhizomes are traditionally eaten roasted and can also be used as a spice in cooking similar to its Asian relative.
Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora)
Lemon Myrtle is native to sub-tropical Queensland but can also survive in temperate areas. It generally grows 6-8m tall in cultivation and produces white flowers in autumn. A well-drained, slightly acidic soil in a warm sheltered position is preferred but it can also tolerate full sun or part shade.
Lemon Myrtle is well known for its incredible citrus scent. The leaves contain the strongest and purest citral oil in the world. No wonder they smell so amazing! They are traditionally used in cooking and as well as for healing due to their remarkable anti-bacterial properties.