These little beauties are found on low-growing shrubs that are native to the south coast of Australia. Also called emu apple or native cranberry, they are known for their antioxidant value, which is around four times higher than that of blueberries. With a spicy apple flavour and a pretty red and green tinge, your kids will think they have won the fairy lottery in apples and eat them like candy. Much like they used to be traditionally, they can be used dried or pounded and made into a paste and dried into a strap. I love them fresh in salads.
Muntries (aka. emu apples, muntaberry, monterry) were one of the first species of Australian native plants introduced in England. For the Ngarrindjeri people of the Coorong (southeast SA), they’re an old favourite in the historical diet, and were often traded with other tribes. You’ll find these low-growing plants most commonly along the southern coast of Australia.
The Muntrie Berry is one of Australia’s oldest bush foods. These tasty little berries are now being revived and are used in today’s cooking. The small berries, up to 1cm in size, tastes like apple with a juniper essence, and contain high levels of Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, sodium and fibre.
◎ Common Name: Muntries, Native Apple, Emu Apple, Native Cranberries
◎ Scientific or Latin Name: Kunzea pomifera
◎ Comparison: Granny Smith apple; hint of clove and sweetness
◎ Seasonality: Feb–Mar fresh, or all year frozen
◎ Region: Southern Coastal
◎ Taste Profile: Muntries taste like a sweet, spiced apple with a slight apple-juniper essence and subtle berry notes. They have a delicate, slightly diluted, berry flavour on the tongue, with notes of juniper, and subtle notes of spiced apple and pear.
◎ Types: Muntries belong to the Myrtaceae family, which also includes well-known plants such as eucalypts, bottle brushes, paperbarks, tea trees and lilly pillies.
- Muntries are valued for their natural waxes and high level of antioxidants, one of which is an excellent wound healer.
- Its antioxidant capacity is significantly higher than the blueberry, which is renowned worldwide as the ‘health-promoting fruit’.
- Muntries boast high levels of Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
- Muntries provide a rich source of minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and zinc.
- Muntries are high in dietary fibre, which helps to maintain bowel health and normalise bowel movements.
Aboriginal & Traditional
Traditionally, muntries were highly valued by Aboriginal populations in Victoria and South Australia. The fruit was an important part of diet, surplus fruit was collected and dried or baked into cakes for the winter. These fruits played a major part in the diet of the Narrindjeri people who traded the dried fruit lather with other tribes in exchange for valuable tools like basalt axe heads from the volcanic plains of Western Victoria. Due to the large quantities available, the fruit had immense social and economic importance to Aboriginal groups living in the temperate zone.
Early settlers used the berries in cakes, jams and chutneys.
Western & Modern
Muntries are a delicious and versatile fruit that can be eaten fresh or used in sweet and savoury dishes. Popular recipes containing muntries include jam, chutney, pies, wine, desserts, and sweet and savoury sauces. They add a native touch to fruit salad and platters, salads, ice cream and handmade chocolates. They can be used instead of apples or sultanas in a recipe, and its spicy, fruity flavour creates a rich, refreshing fruit paste that pairs well with cheese.
Muntries pair well with many dairy products, oil and vinegar-based meat marinades and salad dressings, meat-based jus and egg-based condiments. They complement white fish, chicken, pork and lamb, and are perfect for game meat such as emu, crocodile, kangaroo and venison.
Muntries lift the profile of alcoholic beverages such as gin, vodka and white rum, and adds a sweet, refreshing twist to soda, tonic, mineral waters and lemonade. Muntrie berry wine is also being tested and developed.
The antioxidants and wax from the muntrie fruit are also extracted to make hand cream and other specialist beauty products. They are valued for their natural waxes and high level of antioxidants, one of which is an excellent wound healer.
Like the acai berry is to the Amazon region, the muntrie berry appears to be a native super food. A recent study of twelve native Australian fruits, the muntrie included, showed that the antioxidant capacity of many of these fruits even surpassed the high antioxidant levels of the blueberry. The fruit, in fact, may have up to four times the antioxidants of blueberries and further testing continues. Antioxidants help protect cells against the damaging effects of free radicals. Reported to improve immune functions, there antioxidant-rich foods can lower the risk for infection, heart disease, and cancer.
Note: The term 'Bush Tucker' and 'Bush Food' are not Warndu's preferred terms for Australian Native Ingredients or Australian Botanicals.
Images: © Luisa Brimble