Welcome back to the table Murnong
I squealed so loud when my yam daisies produced pretty yellow flowers then delicious little roots! These are hugely important to the Wurundjeri people as a vital carbohydrate source. The introduction of sheep, however, rendered the plants almost extinct. A lot of work is going on to make them abundant again. I do hope you all get to try them and one day buy them like you would potatoes.
There are many ways this incredibly versatile vegetable can be brought to the table. The tubers can be eaten raw and have a radish-like texture with a sweet and unique coconutty and grassy flavour. Roasting or frying murnong renders the taste similar to a potato, but with a naturally saltier flavour. Traditionally, they've been cooked in fire pits.
While the commercial enterprise of Australia’s murnong is still in its early stages, chefs and skilled cooks are experimenting with the small amount that is available.
◎ Common Name: Murnong or Yam Daisy
◎ Scientific or Latin Name: Microseris lanceolata
◎ Comparison: Potato
◎ Seasonality: Rare
◎ Region: Victoria
◎ Taste Profile: It has a radish-like texture with a unique, sweet coconutty flavour. It is a native yam which has a distinct nutty-taste when roasted.
◎ Types: The murnong or yam daisy is any of the plants Microseris walteri, Microseris lanceolata and Microseris scapigera.
- Murnong is easily digestible and causes no spike in blood sugar, making it an excellent source of carbohydrates.
- It is believed to be eight times as nutritious as a standard potato.
Aboriginal & Traditional
Murnong is a Woiwurrung word for the plant, used by the Wurundjeri people and possibly other clans of the Kulin nation. It has many other names in other Australian Indigenous languages.
The edible tuberous roots of murnong plants were once a vitally important source of food for Aboriginal Australian people in the southern parts of Australia. Indigenous women would dig for roots with a yam stick and carry the roots away in a dillybag or rush basket.
In western Victoria, baskets were used in the cooking. After being washed, tubers were put into a rush basket, which was placed on an earth oven, called mirrn'yong mounds. Tubers would roast, half melting into a sweet dark syrup. Another cooking technique uses heated clay elements placed above and below the edible roots. The steam and moisture helps reduce the drying and shrinking of the vegetables.
The roots of the murnong plants were consumed in large quantities by Indigenous people until the 1840s, when European colonists began using the murnong crop lands for sheep farming.
Western & Modern
Murnong produces gangly, milky, white tuberous roots that may be eaten raw, fried or baked. They can be prepared warm with butter, included in salads, mixed with other vegetables, or turned into a paste for desserts.
When eaten raw, the root is similar in texture to radish and has a sweet coconutty and grassy taste. Once roasted or fried the flavour transforms into something similar to a salty potato. You can try the leaves of the plant as well – with their slightly bitter taste they are perfect for salads with some red-wine vinegar dressing.
It will be a while before we would be able to see murnongs aplenty, but it is already gathering a lot of attention and hopefully, more of us will be able to enjoy this 'superfood' very soon.
There are no known medicinal uses for this plant.
Note: The term 'Bush Tucker' and 'Bush Food' are not Warndu's preferred terms for Australian Native Ingredients or Australian Botanicals.
Images: Photo by Bushfood Survival Plants