Our red bush apple- which isn’t an apple at all

Syzygium suborbiculare or Red Bush Apple in English, Bemburrtyak In Malak Malak, Gorokkorokkin in Waigaman, Mindilima in Larrakia, Migemininy in Nauiya and Jaruk in Jawoyn and I am sure it has many more names…

red bush apple on tree So this awesome coloured fruit is right now in our beautiful bush- to be more specific in open woodland, this fruit comes from a pretty plant that is in the mid layer and starts of with shiny oval leaves and red petioles. It only fruits at this time of year, but is found across the whole of northern Australia and will catch your eye if you are in the bush, either on the ground or hanging on the tree. It’s a splash of colour amongst the fresh new green growth that is making the rather humidly warm but wonderful woodland landscape look delicious right now. And like many common English names for bush tucker “Bush Apple” makes a comparison to a temperate fruit- but is in the Myrtaceae family, like all our Eucalypts, Paperbarks etc.  Syzygium genus are a whole bunch of plants often called ‘Lilly Pilly’ and are found all over Australia and Asia and have edible fruit. It only vaguely resembles red of some apple varieties and there the similarity ends. (For your information the cooler loving apple is in the Rosaceae family!)

red bush apple on tree 6

 Here are some geeky technical details, that I love to add-

Syzygium suborbiculare Medium tree to 12 m with slightly rough grey-brown bark. The dark glossy green leaves are leathery and oval to circular with a pointed tip. Flowers are large and white with numerous stamens, found in dense terminal clusters. Fruit are fleshy, round with distinct ribs and a persistent calyx, and contain one large seed.

red bush apples in bowl 2 As the fruit is from a small tree, you can pick it from the branches and eat it straight away- the seed is large and only a few mils of flesh is on the outside, which has a fluffy texture on the inner side and a crunchy texture on the outer side with ha tangy flavour, not too unlike a rosella, maybe with a hint of bitterness. Apparently there is a pink variation on Tiwi which is sweeter.

red bush apples in bowl 3

Anyway here are some of these handsome fruits that I arranged nicely.

bush apple ingredientsI am sure they would make good jams if you were into it, but I added mine into a seasonal mango salad, as advised by Lozza in Nhulunbuy, with some additional cucumber, mint, and a squeeze of lime juice- try and get a firm mango – the one pictured was quite ripe. Mango happens to be in season at the same time- so a good time to try them together!

red bush apple salad 2

So get out there are try them out if you haven’t or try to put them with something new!


Bush Tucker (Cocky Apple) on toast

planchonia 2The Cocky Apple, also known as Wulngum (Malak Malak), Pindaylany (Matngala), Mangal or Pamkujji (Jawoyn) has a botanical name of Planchonia careya is in the family Lecythidaceae. It is a common understory plant found in our beautiful savannah or open woodland landscapes. It is a calendar plant and only fruits once a year- which is right now, as the first rains start and that bright green flush goes through the bush; it fruits over a couple of months, from the build up or Dalirgang in Larrakia seasons and then into the rainy season.). It is a very pretty tree and the flowers are also very attractive, large fleshy pink and white with numerous stamens. And if you would like some technical details- The tree grows to be between 4 -10 m tall and has smooth broadly ovate leaves that often are a reddish colour when newly developing- they are smaller leaves than the green plum (Buchanania obavata) or Kakadu plum (Termnalia ferdinandiana)

Planchonia foliage

The fruit are green smooth and fleshy oblong, ovoid pear shaped with a yellow fibrous inner flesh when ripe, and around 2 cm long. They are eaten when they are still green but soft to touch and they are best to pick when still on the tree. The yellow inner flesh is eaten and has the rich creamy texture similar to avocado and sweet taste with fragrant overtones.

Planchonia 5They could be added to smoothies or eaten on toast with freshly ground pepper- I haven’t done this myself but Yvette Brady, who knows a lot about bush tucker and works with me, says this is very yummy and I am keen to try and feed back after the feed. The fruit are often eaten by insects and not in such good condition once they fall. They are a food source for many larger birds and animals too such as cockatoos (hence the name) and possums! Frill neck lizards are often attracted to the tree and hang out in the branches.

So get out there and try some out!

Planchonia long

If you would like to grow them; within the flesh are small oval seeds, which you can propagate from. And the plant has many other uses-  strong string or rope can also be made from the inner bark of these species, which can also be used for boils, burns and spear wounds if made into a hot poultice. Heated leaves are also used to treat spear wounds, fish stings and headaches. The roots can be applied to prickly heat and skin conditions. Root bark also can be made into a string and made into ceremonial belts.