Indigenous Crop: Dried or Fresh, Wild Bush Tomato Is Delicious and Nutritious

Sun-dried bush tomatoes can be preserved for long periods of time, and are a traditional food among Australian Aboriginals (Magnus Manske, 2010)

Solanum chippendalei, or the bush tomato, as it is commonly referred to in Australia, has long been an important food souce for Indigenous Australians, largely because it is entirely edible as a dried or fresh fruit. The botanical name derives from that of the Australian botanist George Chippendale, who made significant contributions to Australian botanical knowledge throughout his career. 

The tomato, just larger than a grape, grows wildly in the arid, red soil regions of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, as well as in northern Queensland. The tomato plant itself is a small shrub, easily distinguishable by its bright purple flowers and yellow fruits during May to October.

Bush tomatoes are a rich source of protein and calcium and contain 3.2 grams of dietary fiber, which is higher than the amount provided by an apricot. It is popular practice among Aboriginal peoples and within the Australian food industry to sun-dry bush tomatoes. The sun-dried fruits are known as akudjura and have an intense tamarillo flavor. Dried bush tomatoes have lower levels of alkaloids, simultaneously reducing their bitterness and potential harmful impacts on the human nervous system. Aboriginal women often gather the tomatoes to be ground with tree gums as a preservative. The ground mixture can be formed into balls, or flattened out for further drying and future consumption.

Recent studies from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have looked into germination techniques to help promote the bush tomato in the Australian food industry. Following the success of other indigenous Australian crops such as macadamia nuts and quandongs, it is hoped that improved methods of propagation will enable commercial production of the bush tomato. The increasing popularity of wild foods certainly provides a window of opportunity for this little fruit to reach its full potential on the domestic and international markets. At the moment, the tomatoes are proving a popular addition to chutneys, baked goods and salads, and can be used in savory or sweet dishes such as these savory bush tomato scones

Indigenous crops have provided communities with nourishment for thousands of years. Traditional and indigenous varieties of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains are not only typically highly nutritious, but also provide much-needed diversity in peoples’ diets, particularly in the developing world. Food Tank will regularly feature indigenous crops from around the world, highlighting the important roles they play in providing nutrients, improving food security, raising incomes, and making staple crops taste good.

Meg has a Masters of Environment (Economics and Policy) from Griffith University on Australia's Gold Coast. She also holds a BA in Indonesian from Deakin University. Meg's research areas of interest include environmental and climate change policy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Are you part of the food movement? Join Food Tank.


Help Us Sign Up New Food Tank Sustainers!

Since our launch, you've seen the energy and momentum behind Food Tank, an independent voice seeking sustainable solutions for our broken food system. Now, we need your help. To keep Food Tank moving forward, we need to sign up new sustaining members!

Become a Food Tank Sustainer today.

Register Now For Food Tank's 1st Annual Summit!

Located at George Washington University in Washington, DC, Food Tank's 1st Annual Summit will feature more than 75 speakers who are active leaders in the food movement.

Register for the Summit

Download the 2014 Good Food Org Guide!

On October 26, The James Beard Foundation and Food Tank released the "2014 Good Food Org Guide," a definitive resource that highlights the exemplary work non-profit organizations in the United States are doing on food and agriculture, nutrition and health, hunger and obesity, and food justice.

Download the report (.pdf)

Sign a Petition in Support of the 2014 International Year of Family Farming

Food Tank is joining the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and over 360 civil society and farmer's organizations in celebrating the International Year of Family Farming.



Do You Want To Work For Food Tank?

Writing positions, internships, and other jobs are available.