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Desert Delish

Bush foods may be a quintessentially Australian symbol, but how many people truly interact with them in a meaningful way? Outside those with cultural knowledge or high-end culinary experience, most of us are likely missing delicious opportunities daily.

By Hannah Muir

This month, Red Hot Arts presents Bush Foods Festival in cahoots with Rayleen Brown from Kungkas Can Cook as the Creative Director. Rayleen’s main inspiration for the festival is the cultural practices of harvesting food.

Mary Jane “MJ” Warfield is Red Hot Arts Co-GM, and says Rayleen has been specific in what she hopes festival attendees will learn.

“She has been telling us that art, food, sport, life and family are not separate,” she says.

“In our Western paradigm, we think ‘that’s an arts festival, that’s a food festival’, but Rayleen has been telling us that culture is all together.”

The desert has harsh conditions, not only for growing food, but for sourcing it as well. Beyond being a cultural insight, learning how to grow and harvest food, using native ingredients, is incredibly sustainable. And very, very trendy, judging by the current interstate foodie scene.

Since living in Alice Springs, MJ has found herself falling in love with native passionfruit, found on a tree possibly unrecognised by most.

“It’s a spindly tree – a very messy growing tree – that has open floppy white flowers with long stamen. They are very sl-tty flowers that say ‘come get me’. They have these little passionfruit that are kind of green on the outside, quite small, and are very sweet and sticky on the inside."

Bush Foods runs over three delicious days, sprinkled across a bunch of Alice Springs venues, with many opportunities to identify and understand the many native foods right under our noses. A highlight of the program is the Bush Food Recipe Competition followed by a meal on the last night. The competition is an invitation to the community to experiment with native ingredients.

“I make a killer lasagne. I might then add a native pepper to my bolognaise to give it a kick,” MJ says, only slightly boastfully.

“It can be a recipe that you’ve already done that gets a bush food flair, or it could be a complete bush food recipe, like a rosella ice cream.”

The competition, held out at Desert Knowledge, has three host judges and opportunities for tasting, as well as live music and market stalls of local First Nations businesses. Prepare those taste buds, throw in a dash of curiosity, and tuck in!

Bush Foods Festival

Inset: Rayleen Brown inspects seed pods on a wattle tree

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