For more than 40,000 years, the Australian bush provided Indigenous people with everything they needed. Their diet consisted mainly of plants, and they knew how to use hundreds of varieties for food, medicine and more.
Bush tucker plants are tasty and nutritious, adapted to Australian conditions and attract wildlife, so why not try growing them in your garden?
At All Green, our nursery is home to a massive range of both natives and exotic plants, all carefully selected and bred by us to thrive in Victoria’s unique climate conditions. And our expert horticulturists are always on hand to share their cultivation tips for native food plants.
[content_aside]To discover more of the many edible Australian native plants that can grow in Melbourne, you can take the Aboriginal Heritage Walk at the Royal Botanic Gardens and learn about how the local Koolin people traditionally used bush tucker plants.[/content_aside]
Top 5 bush tucker plants for Melbourne gardens
1. Finger Lime (Citrus australasica)
The finger lime originates from the rainforests of southern Queensland and northern NSW. It can reach quite a height there, but in Melbourne it seldom exceeds 3 metres, forming a thorny evergreen shrub that can be grown in a pot or pruned into a hedge.
The name comes from the finger-shaped fruit, which can reach up to 10 centimetres in length and contain delicious small beads of tangy citrus pulp often referred to as ‘lime caviar’ used by chefs around the world for everything from garnishes and marmalades to desserts and drinks.
There are many different varieties and hybrids of finger lime, the fruits of which can look and taste quite different. They generally enjoy part sun to full sun, and in Melbourne a dappled north-facing site is ideal (avoid windy spots, as the plant’s thorns can damage the fruit). They are able to withstand light frost.
2. Lilly Pilly (Acmena spp., Syzygium spp.)
Lilly Pillys are massively popular with Australian gardeners, and there are many varieties which may originate from Australia or Asia and range in height from 3 metres up to 20 metres. Some make a great hedge or topiary plant, and the more compact types can be kept in a large pot.
Lilly Pillys have glossy green foliage and generally flower in summer, after which they produce crisp, tart red or purple berries that are used to make chutneys, jams and jellies, or can be added to drinks or muffins.
The Backyard Bliss variety of Lilly Pilly is dense, fast-growing and thrives in Melbourne as a low-maintenance hedge or screening plant. It prefers full sun but also performs well in part shade conditions and is frost tolerant once established.
3. Midyim Berry (Austromyrtus dulcis)
The Midyim (or Midgen) Berry is a shrub native to eastern Australia. Its leaves are a strong burgundy colour when young, and then turn dark green. It reaches around 1 metre in height, and can be used to form a low hedge.
The sweet, tangy berries are one of Australia’s tastiest bush tucker foods. They look and taste somewhat like a blueberry with a hint of spice, and can be eaten fresh or used in sweet and savoury dishes.
The Midyim Berry will thrive in full sun or part shade, and in frost-prone areas can be protected under overhanging tree branches. It tolerates a range of soils but prefers good drainage, and shouldn’t be allowed to dry out in summer.
4. Mountain Pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata)
The Mountain Pepper (or Tasmanian Pepperberry) is a bushy native evergreen shrub native to Tasmania and the Australian mainland. It generally reaches 2 to 5 metres in height, and can be grown as a potted ornamental.
Its aromatic leaves and small black berries were used by Aboriginal people and early colonial settlers as food and medicine due to their potent antioxidant, antifungal and antibacterial properties. Both the leaves and berries can be dried and used as a spice, and the ground berries make a great Aussie pepper.
The Mountain Pepper comes from high-rainfall, cooler areas, so it needs good shelter from hot winds in summer. It prefers good-quality, well-drained soil and should be mulched during the hotter months. It is fairly frost hardy.
5. Davidson's Plum (Davidsonia pruriens)
Davidson's Plum, or Ooray, is a medium-sized rainforest tree (5 to 10 metres in Victoria) that originates from northern Queensland. It is a slender tree, and does not really spread, so it can fit in some tricky spots in the garden.
The small plum-like fruit, rather unusually, grow on the tree’s trunk and they are quite tart, so are often sweetened with sugar. Great for chutneys and jams, and because of their dark red colouring are used to both colour and flavour drinks and sauces.
The Davidson's Plum likes part sun and will also grow in full sun, but being a rainforest plant they need more sheltered positions in Melbourne gardens with ample moisture and protection from damaging winds.