Exploring Rainforest Heart, a native species tropical orchard - words by Janie Barton.
As the growing interest in having pure and healthy food rises, so does the increased interest in Far North Queensland’s native foods (also known as bush tucker).
We’re not talking about witchetty grubs, which many people imagine when they hear the words ‘bush tucker’. We’re talking about using native fauna and flora from this region that indigenous people have been utilising for thousands of years for culinary and medicinal purposes.
Research has shown that many native fruits and herbs are packed full of nutrition, and Tableland growers like Margo Watkins and Peter Lawlor are helping to drive this burgeoning industry at their Rainforest Heart orchard where they grow ancient Australian native fruit species using sustainable farming practices.
“I think the interest in native food is being driven by research into their health properties,” Margo said. “It has created a lot of interest in native trees and plants.”
Margo and Peter, who have approximately 1000 Davidson’s Plum trees and 400 Lemon Aspens on their property among other native trees and plants, are showcasing these traditional fruits to the world in modern applications such as teas, spice blends, vinegars and recently added fruit wine aperitifs, to name some of their products.
They have won numerous awards for their Davidson’s Plum Powder and their Lemon Aspen Powder
They have won numerous awards including gold medals from the Australian Food Awards for their Davidson’s Plum Powder and their Lemon Aspen Powder.
“Davidson’s Plum has so many health benefits,” Margo said. “It has three times more antioxidants than blueberries, and while it’s not the type of thing you can eat raw, it has fantastic flavours for use in cooking.”
The fruit is an excellent source of potassium, vitamin E, zinc, folate, magnesium and calcium amongst its properties. Lemon Aspen, which also has superior antioxidant properties, is rich source of folate, iron and zinc and also contains magnesium and calcium. Also included in their range of products is healthy teas, Dukka spice blends, salty plum rubs, jams, vinegars and a recently added fruit wine aperitif. Margo is currently preparing to launch two Japanese-inspired seasoning mixes called ‘furikake’, one made with Davidson’s Plum and another with Lemon Aspen.
Their products are available directly through their website but can be sampled during their bush food tours (by appointment only) where guests can explore Margo and Peter’s native fruit orchard before enjoying a bushfood morning tea, comprising of tasting plates of dishes made with their produce washed down with a refreshing chilled Davidsons plum tea.
“We have had fantastic feedback on the tours,” Margo said. “We often have people who are very interested in bush food, but we get foodies and the general public as well. We also have quite a few chefs and restaurants asking for our produce, which are happy to supply.
“I think it’s just fantastic that all kinds of people are interested in using native foods. Bush tucker is unadulterated and hasn’t been cultivated, and that is really attractive to people in this day and age where they are becoming more health conscious.”
Located between the Mungalli Creek Biodynamic Dairy and the Mungalli Falls, 10 minutes drive from the famous Millaa Millaa Falls.
This is a working farm, tours and tastings are available, but only by prior arrangement only please call 07 4097 2359 for further details. Products available through their online shop www.rainforestheart.com.au