Like a curry that keeps on giving. This striking red root (which looks a lot like a fennel bulb) is absolutely amazing. Anything you cook with it will take on its colour. Use sparingly, as it genuinely packs a punch. This bulb vegetable has long been used by the Noongar Aboriginal people of Western Australia both as a food source and as medicine.
Bloodroot (aka. Bohn, Meen, Mardja or Menang) is a native bulb vegetable. A relative of the Kangaroo Paw, it can be found growing individually or in small clusters along the south and west coast of Western Australia.
The edible roots when eaten raw are very spicy and can numb the lips. The compounds that colour this vegetable are unique to the Bloodroot, and were traditionally used as a red dye. Bloodroot is hot and spicy, slow growing and turns your tongue black; it can be used in salads and on top of pizzas.
◎ Common Name: Bloodroot, Bohn, Meen, Mardja, Menang
◎ Scientific or Latin Name: Haemodorum spicatum
◎ Comparison: Curry leaves, capsicums, chilli
◎ Seasonality: Rare
◎ Region: Western Australia
◎ Taste Profile: Bloodroot packs a spicy punch, akin to radish and chilli, and oozes a reddish sap when cut.
◎ Types: Haemodorum coccineum/spicatum (bunyagutjagutja, bloodroot, menang, scarlet bloodroot, red root) is a flowering plant in the same family as kangaroo paw.
Bloodroot can aid in reducing the symptoms of dysentery.
Traditionally it was also used to prevent mouth sores and toothache.
Modern medicine is further examining the antibacterial and anti-tumour properties of Bloodroot.
Traditional Aboriginal Food and Uses
The Aboriginal names for Bloodroot include Meen, Mardja, Menang and Bohn. Indigenous Australians use this plant to make red, brown and purple dyes for colouring plant fibres. The bulbous red root is chopped or crushed and boiled in water to release the red-brown dyes, while the purple shades are made from the fruit.
Some sources report Indigenous Australians used the plant to treat snake-bite, and the dry stalks were used as fire-sticks.
Western & Modern
Bloodroot is best baked or roasted, and may be pounded and dried and used as a spice. It makes a fantastic curry base, and the fruits can also be used in floral arrangements.
Bloodroot was long used by the Noongar peoples of Western Australia to help with dysentery, mouth sores and toothache.
Currently, they are being studied for their antibacterial and anti-tumour properties.
Note: The term 'Bush Tucker' and 'Bush Food' are not Warndu's preferred terms for Australian Native Ingredients or Australian Botanicals.
Images: Photo by Barb Dobson 2007, courtesy of Anthropology From The Shed