Parakeelya (Calandrinia balonensis) is a fleshy herb with succulent leaves. Parakeelya is the native name given by the Aboriginal people. This plant occurs throughout Central Australia: it is prolific in the arid regions west of the Great Divide spreading out across central Australia into Western Australia. It is highly dependent on winter rain and will not germinate without the rain.
An absolutely stunning edible flower. It grows in the desert and both the flowers and seed heads are used by the Pitjantjatjara people.
The whole plant is eaten, flowers, leaves and roots. The most common method is to steam the whole plant. In times of emergency, when there is little or no alternative source of water, the succulent leaves are eaten raw because of their high water content. The seeds are sometimes eaten, but they ripen unevenly and it requires a lot of hard work to gather a sufficient quantity of seeds.
◎ Common Name: Parakeeyla
◎ Scientific or Latin Name: Calandrinia balonensis
◎ Comparison: Cucumber
◎ Seasonality: Rare
◎ Region: Arid
◎ Taste Profile: It has a pleasantly acid taste that adds a nice flavour to salads.
◎ Types: Calandrinia balonensis is one of approximately 74 Calandrinia species native to Australia. Along with the pigweeds (Portulaca species), Calandrinia are the most prominent succulent species in Australia.
- The leaves can be consumed raw in dehydration emergencies due to the high content of water in the succulent plant.
Traditional Aboriginal Food and Uses
Parakeeyla was an important food for Aboriginal people in Central Australia. Pitjantjatjara people steam the leaves, roots and stems before eating, and would eat the succulent leaves raw for their moisture content in an emergency.
The leaves were also a food source for European settlers and explorers as they were palatable when cooked and dressed with seasoning or white sauce.
Western & Modern
The small black seeds can be eaten raw or ground into a paste that is rich in protein and fat, but gathering the seeds in useful quantities is labour-intensive. The roots can be consumed raw or cooked.
The leaves can be consumed raw, however the plant contains oxalic acid, so it should only be used in moderation. Oxalic acid can lock up certain of the nutrients in food and, if eaten in excess, can lead to nutritional deficiencies. It is, however, perfectly safe in small amounts and its acid taste adds a nice flavour to salads. Cooking the plant will reduce the quantity of oxalic acid.
People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones and hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.
There are no known modern 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: © Luisa Brimble