On a humid afternoon near the Arnhem Land community of Maningrida, one of the world’s best chefs bites into a fresh red bush apple, known locally as djarduk.
His name is Ben Shewry, the chef and owner of Attica in Melbourne, a restaurant with a three-month waiting list that prides itself on sourcing and cooking rare and unique Australian ingredients.
“The djarduk ended up on our radar because we had started buying green ants from here and they [the local Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation] offered us these red bush apples,” he said.
The restaurant has just ordered 500 kilograms of the bright red fruit and will use them in its famous black ant lamington.
“We juice the apples and make a sorbet from them and fill the inside of something we call the black ant lamington,” Mr Shewry said.
“The djarduk has such a complex flavour, a deep flavour.
“It’s slightly acidic, it’s quite sweet but it’s complex, it has a hint of eucalypt about it, it is fragrant and looks insanely beautiful.”
Record orders for bush apple
This is just the second year the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, via its business enterprise Maningrida Wild Foods, has conducted a commercial wild harvest of bush apples in the region.
Along with the order from Attica, it has several other contracts locked in which will see it pick at least three tonnes of fruit this season.
Maningrida Wild Foods manager Clem Bresson said it was an exciting time for the community.
“The season has started late but there are plenty of fruit on the trees and we should be harvesting for the next two months,” he said.
“We’ve already got plenty of families heading out [to pick], and once word gets around the community that we’re buying bush apples, we expect more families to head out.”
Mr Bresson said the wild harvesting of bush tucker had become a great way of generating income for people living in such a remote part of Australia.
“We pay a lot of attention to making sure most of the money goes straight to the harvesters,” he said.
Mr Shewry said it was important to see the harvest for himself and meet the locals.
“I wanted to come up and visit the people that supply us the amazing ingredients that we buy and learn about their culture,” he said.
“To see this fruit in the flesh, to pick one and eat it ripe, was really special.”
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