Breaking bush food boundaries
Aboriginal farmer Rhys Bonshore has been growing native food crops on salt-affected land in the Great Southern — and he is encouraging other farmers to do the same.
For several years, Mr Bonshore has planted native crops such as bush potatoes and saltbush at his Cranbrook farm.
He said the salty and sandy soils found across the region were unsuitable for common crops such as wheat, but native species could thrive in the rough soil.
“We have very strong links to these particular food groups. It’s part of our culture and tradition,” Mr Bonshore said.
“Once you harvest it, it will also lower the salt table in the soil.
“The sheep can also eat the saltbush and it will improve the flavour of the lamb.
“(It’s the) same with bush potatoes — they can also grow in this salty soil.”
Mr Bonshore is supplying his native crops to renowned chef Paul Iskov, who has been travelling around Australia to promote native ingredients in his pop-up fine dining restaurant, Fervor.
Mr Iskov, also known as Yoda, said he would like more people to learn the history and stories behind native ingredients.
“Youlk from the Great Southern is a delicious and versatile vegetable that we love,” he said.
“It can be eaten raw, shredded over salads, pickled or roasted over the coals. It tastes like a cross between carrot, radish and pear and has a crunchy texture when raw. I think people are pleasantly surprised when they try this food.”\
Mr Bonshore said farmers in the Great Southern should grow native crops on unused land.
“I’ve been to other farms in this area and a lot of farmers have got these little plots of land that are not being used because of the salty soils,” he said.
Mr Bonshore said he would like to see more Australian farmers cultivating native crops and turning them into the nation’s ingredients.
“The more we can get Aboriginal culture out into the greater part of Australia, the better it is for us,” he said.
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