Bush tomato (Desert Raisin or Kutjera) is a delight. Both savoury and sweet and packing a punch. We LOVE bush tomato and use it in everything.
These beauties are wild harvested in central Australia by an amazing group of Indigenous women. They have been in short supply in the past years so we are lucky to have them.
Oh so wonderful when eaten fresh but the flavour profile of a dried one is also amazing, like a caramel, savoury carob crossed with sun-dried tomato. The fruits can actually be left to dry on the bush and collected months later. They are best ground, and can be used in just about any dish you like. Bush tomato has superior antioxidant capacity compared to the blueberry, which is renowned worldwide as a health-promoting fruit.
Native to central Australia, bush tomato has a reliable history of traditional use, noted in one report as ‘probably the most important of all the Central Australian plant foods’. Aboriginal names vary depending on language group but include akatyerr, akatjurra, katyerr, kampurarrpa and yakajirri. These communities continue to play a key role in the industry, where wild harvest remains the major source of production.
Going forward, a key challenge will be finding the balance between the commercialisation and the protection of strong Indigenous culture and intellectual property rights.
◎ Common Name: Bush Tomato, Desert Rasin, Kutjera
◎ Scientific or Latin Name: Solanum centrale
◎ Comparison: Caramelised Vegemite, raisins
◎ Seasonality: All year dried
◎ Region: Arid
◎ Taste Profile: Bush tomato has a strong flavour which has been described as earthy caramel and tomato with a pungent aftertaste. The sun dried fruit may be eaten directly after harvest but are generally further dried and ground to be used as a spice or flavouring.
◎ Types: We offer Bush Tomato as a fruit, whole and dried. It also features in our Aussie Dukkah. Try them ground and rubbed into your BBQ meat, on a cheese board or in stews and casseroles.
Health Benefits of Bush Tomato
- Bush tomato is one of few native foods reported to contain selenium, a rare mineral which plays a key role in the metabolism and has antioxidant properties.
- Bush tomato has superior antioxidant capacity compared to the blueberry, which is renowned worldwide as the ‘health-promoting fruit’. Antioxidants are believed to hold a number of benefits for human health, potentially preventing and delaying diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
- Bush tomato is also rich in iron and contains vitamin E, folate, zinc, magnesium and calcium, and has a high potassium:sodium ratio which may be researched to see if it may help to reduce hypertension.
- Fresh berries also contain Vitamin C.
Traditional Aboriginal Food and Uses of Bush Tomato
Native to Central and Western Australia, the bush tomato has a strong connection with the mythology of the Warlpiri tribes and Anmatyerr people of Central Australia. Like many Australian native plants, bush tomatoes thrive after bushfires. Regarded as a staple, bush tomatoes that had dried on the shrub in low humidity desert conditions were gathered and ground with water to produce a thick paste which was formed into large balls and left to dry in the blazing sun. The high acidity characterized in the tangy flavor and rich vitamin C content acted as a preservative, making storage over long periods of time possible and these balls were often wedged into the forks of trees for later use.
Western & Modern
Although the Australian Aborigines used bush tomatoes primarily for sustenance, our current inquisitiveness and desire for diversified taste experiences has led us to appreciate bush tomatoes as a spice, used in small quantities to enhance the flavor of a wide range of foods in everyday meals.
Bush tomato is proving to be one of the most marketable products emerging from the Australian native foods industry. While the mature yellow fruit can be eaten fresh, bush tomato is usually used in its dried form. It has a distinctive raisin / caramel introduction with a strong spicy aftertaste, making it ideal for chutneys, curries, salsas and as a crust on meat. Ground, it can be found in bread mixes, herb blends, pasta, relishes, dressings, sauces and dukkah.
Today Bush Tomato is hailed for is superfood qualities and powerful antioxidants, but traditionally the roots of the plant were used as a medicine, where they are baked in ash and then peeled and used to treat toothache. Overconsumption of the ripe dry fruits may also have a laxative effect, and there is also some evidence that the plant may have contraceptive qualities.
In modern times incorporating this super fruit into your daily lives can assist in the prevention and delay of the following:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Autoimmune disease
- Cardiovascular disease
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Bush Tomato is featured in these recipes in Warndu Mai:
Warndu Products featuring Bush Tomato
Note: The term 'Bush Tucker' and 'Bush Food' are not Warndu's preferred terms for Australian Native Ingredients or Australian Botanicals.
Images: © Luisa Brimble