Quandongs, muntries and Kakadu plums are just some of the native bushfoods Cate and Peter Cahill grow in the hope of increasing consumer awareness of the health benefits and getting more Indigenous people involved in growing them.
Mr Cahill is a proud descendant of the Awabakal people from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and grew up in Quilpie and Inglewood in southern Queensland.
The Cahills are now turning their passion for the bush into their dream, producing native foods at their properties at Loxton in South Australia and at Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory for their business Kaiyu Superfoods.
“We thought native foods would be the way to go because we just love native plants and they are what’s evolved on this earth for all these years,” Ms Cahill said.
“They are so suited to the environment, they use less water and also the fruits are so nutritious, that we just want to spread the word that I guess they are out there, and they are available.”
“We want to establish the native fruit industry further because Australian native fruits are very high in their vitamin content,” Mr Cahill said.
Freeze-dried native bush fruits and their health benefits
The couple does not sell the fresh native bush fruit but rather freeze-dries it to be sold in a powdered form for consumer convenience and easier access to antioxidants and vitamins.
Ms Cahill said the freeze dryer froze the fruit at about -40 degrees Celsius for about nine hours. A vacuum created under low pressure removed the water from the fruit with only a very small amount of heat.
“It’s almost 100 per cent of nutrients that are preserved through the freeze-drying process … unlike dehydrating, where you have to use a lot of heat and you destroy some of the nutrients,” she said.
“Also, because you have taken all the water out, the fruit is actually very concentrated, so you only need half a teaspoon to a teaspoon to get all the nutritional benefits.”
She said muntries were like Australia’s own native ‘superberries’, a source of antioxidants, high in vitamin E and a source of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.
“Desert limes are renowned for their sharp, refreshing, strong lime flavour and are a good source of vitamin C.”
A report by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) says that desert limes are a very rich source of calcium and contain high levels of vitamin C, folate (vitamin B9), vitamin E and lutein, a compound that plays an important role in eye health and wellbeing.
Ms Cahill said the powdered, freeze-dried form of native bush fruits could be used in smoothies, drinks, yoghurts, granola, and could also be used for baking and cooking.
More Indigenous growers needed
Mr Cahill said one of their goals was to expand the native fruit industry and get more Indigenous people involved.
He said it was important to increase the number of Indigenous people involved in both their business and the native food industry because there were not many.
Indigenous representation in the supply chain from growers to farm managers and exporters is less than 1 per cent, according to an ongoing research project.
Bushfood Sensations, an alliance of businesses that promote Indigenous Australian food, surveyed more than 120 people in the industry late last year, with Indigenous Land Corporation funding.
It found that only 1 per cent of the industry’s produce and dollar value is generated by Indigenous people.
The findings, due to be published this year, aim to shed light on why Indigenous participation in the industry is so low.
Mr and Ms Cahill source their desert limes, quandongs and muntries from local growers in South Australia, but as the trees on their properties in South Australia and the Northern Territory start to grow and produce, the couple hopes to work with Indigenous communities in both locations.