Youlk - The crunchy potato
The roots of this plant look like a potato and taste like a nashi pear and a radish crossed with kohlrabi and potato. It stays crunchy even after cooking, with an awesome juicy flavour. Native to south-west Australia where it grows in the sandy soil, it is an important food for the Noongar people, even if its availability was quite compromised by massive deforestation following European settlement. One single plant produces several roots, but only a few can be harvested at a time, allowing the plant to regenerate. Commercialisation of this veggie is well underway. We hope one day it will sit proudly next to the potato.
Youlk, also known as Ravensthorpe Radish, is one of many edible bushfood roots in traditional cuisine. You can find it growing across Ravensthorpe, Newdegate and Jerramungup in Western Australia. Though this native vegetable is nicknamed “radish”, it’s actually classified as a relative of the carrot.
◎ Common Name: Youlk, Ravensthorpe Radish, Bush Carrot
◎ Scientific or Latin Name: Platysace deflexa
◎ Comparison: Radish/raw potato
◎ Seasonality: Rare
◎ Region: South West
◎ Taste Profile: Youlk has been described as tasting like a cross between a carrot and a parsnip. Others liken it to a radish or even a pear. Youlk's also have a distinctive herby smell.
◎ Types: Platysace deflexa is an apiaceae species, like carrots and parsley, and is endemic to the south west of Western Australia. It is related to Platysace maxwellii which grows in areas further north, the edible tubers of the plant are a traditional food source of the indigenous Noongar people of Western Australia.
- Nutritionally, Youlk is similar to carrot.
- It also contains a good level of zinc.
- It is a rich source of carbohydrates.
- Youlk will last more than a month when stored in the fridge and can be harvested all year.
Aboriginal & Traditional
Naturally occurring Youlk holds special significance in Aboriginal culture as a marker of Indigenous identity, spirituality, and connection to the land.
It is a rich source of carbohydrates and this is also why it has been important to the Noongar diet for a long time. However, because of deforestation, concentration of land owners and legislation that prevents wild food gathering, today it is not easily accessible to the natives.
The southwestern part of Australia is rich in biodiversity and Youlk is important to maintaining the ecosystem. The changes in diet introduced by the European colonists was recognised as a contributing factor to a few diseases which have reduced the Noongar’s life expectancy.
Western & Modern
Youlk has a firm, crisp flesh and a mild, sweet flavour. It can be prepared and eaten in a variety of ways, including peeled or unpeeled in salads, sautéed as a side, or baked whole.
With its crisp apple-like texture, golden potato colour and hints of carrot and sweet eucalypt flavour, it makes a tasty ingredient for salads, stews, pies, gratin, cakes and other dishes — or simply roasted, baked or fried with a little butter and salt.
While the Youlk provides rich carbohydrates for diets, 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: Photo by Tucker Bush.