As part of our laboratory work, we are analysing the flavours and gastronomic uses of the Indigenous ingredients on our database. These include researching the aroma, colour, ways to prepare the ingredient, textures, and primary and secondary flavours.

We have started the food flavour and quality assessment process with Moreton Bay fig shoots and mangrove seeds, as these are traditional foods used in modern cuisine. The old-style processing method for these foods involves treating them in ash water to remove bitterness, rendering the shoots and seeds palatable.

An alternate method of treating fig shoots has been developed, which involves using a reduced volume of ash for extraction. It’s based on pH testing of ash samples and soaking the fig shoots prior to pressure cooking. Shoots are then placed in apple cider vinegar overnight, brined (in cryo-vac bags) and refrigerated for six weeks. Microbiological testing confirmed there was no apparent microbial spoilage. Mangrove seeds were also subsequently processed using this optimised method.

Fermentation Time

A few additional native food fermentations have been produced at a laboratory scale. Strawberry gum tea leaves steeped in water were used as a base for a cordial-like beverage, similar to ginger beer.

Steeping Hakea flowers in water and allowing the naturally present yeasts to ferment the liquid was also interesting. The resulting product had a distinct umami flavour with a salty, olive after taste. The yeasts and bacteria responsible for this fermentation have been isolated for identification. Finally, a ferment using Nitraria billardiera has been explored, which produced a product similar in taste and aroma to soy sauce.

We’re excited to see, smell and taste what we’ll discover next.