Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Australian Aboriginal Food &

Since we did a day on Australia on Monday to mark their Labour Day, I thought it would be interesting to throw in some information about the Native diet of the continent.  There exists a serious bond between some tribal entities there and some tribal peoples here on Turtle Island; so this is a nod to our brother and sister societies Down Under.

Aboriginal Australian food obviously differ by location, those along coastal areas are going to include a lot of seafood, and foods derived from wet area.  Those in the interior rely solely on a desert diet (traditional diets only, obviously this doesn't include modern and introduced foods).  The one thing that all these diets have in common is food categorization.  Aboriginal Australians have always had these categories with interesting break-downs of traditional food stuffs.  For a complete look at this see this Wikipedia page.  Basically they invented the first food pyramid and they should be given credit for it.  One category that I personally find interesting is that found in food groups in the people from the continents north shore.  Mudhunay or cycad food.  Cycads are some of the oldest "fruiting" plants on the planet.  I have one in my front yard; here in southern Georgia they simply known as "Dinosaur plants."  The Aboriginal people of Australia are some of the only people left on the planet that still utilize these plants for food.  I can personally attest to the strangeness of the "fruits/nuts" that these plants produce.  All of them are highly toxic to humans and have to be processed before eating.  Here is a page detailing the types of cycads native to Australia.  Here is a page on specific cycad use in Australia.

Aboriginal Cycad Processing

There are three methods used to remove toxins from various types native cycads in Australia.  It depends on the species of cycad and the methods also vary by region.

1.  This is really the most common.  The cycads a removed from their husks cooked for a time and then soaked in water overnight.

2.  Remove from the husk and immerse in a cloth bag in running water 3 to 5 days.  The longer the better, and 5 days are needed for the most toxic types of cycad.  The cycad still have to cooked to be eaten with this method.

3.  This is the most traditional method and requires some serious traditional skill (this is a good example of how lose of tradition in any area in indigenous societies can have such a ripple effect, since these nuts are used ceremonially in a raw for and this is the only method that allows for that).  The method is let the cycad age, as they age, the toxins lessen with each passing day.  The cycad that then sorted; it takes a trained eye to know which one to throw away.  In field tests by universities in Australia, it has been proven that the one that are thrown away and much higher in toxins than the ones that the women selected to save.  Pretty impressive!

Here Are Some Links For Further Reading:

Australian Government Site

Australians in New South Wales showing Halloween some serious love!

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