When you work as a dietitian you are (rightfully so) expected to be the expert on food.
When you work in Aboriginal health you are (again, rightfully so) expected to be knowledged in Aboriginal history and culture.
Combine the two and que a major learning curve in traditional Aboriginal foods. Hunting kangaroos (only the red ones, not the blues ones), searching for emu eggs (and knowing exactly where to find them), and finding fruits in the desert is just scraping the surface. But bear with me, because this city slicker has a lot to learn.
Let’s focus on the desert fruits for now (because rule number 2 prohibits roo, and I’m too impatient to search for emu eggs). Unfortunately, in my corner of the outback, desert fruits are hard to find, but there is one that has survived Australia’s harsh climate for thousands of years.
Quandongs. Makes for an interestingly inappropriate name when workmates change the ‘ng’ to a ‘m’ on the poster that you make for the local primary school. But apart from having a cool name, these are a cool little fruit. They’re an Australian native fruit also known as the desert/wild/native peach, which makes sense as they’re the size of a small peach, with a big stone inside it. This stone takes up much of the fruit, but nature has a way of making what little fruit is available count. Unlike peaches, not only do they come in the standard red and yellow colors, but also blue! Unfortunately for me, blue ones are found mostly in QLD.
However, it is their nutritional composition that gets this dietitian all hot under the collar. They have double the energy and protein than a peach, nearly three times the carbohydrates, and are significantly higher in Vitamin C than oranges. This makes sense considering they helped sustain people in times of food scarcity. On top of all this, their kernel is very high in oils (aka good fats), and traditionally has not only been eaten for these oils, but ground up and used as a hair conditioner, thanks to these nourishing oils. Along with the quandong leaves, the seeds have also been used for medicinal properties, such as an antibacterial and curing skin ailments. Definitely no waste with this fruit!
Now being so nutritious for our bodies and hair, Aboriginals ensured they knew exactly where to find these fruit and seeds. And naturally, quandong seeds are often found in emu droppings. The fruit is popular with humans and emus alike, and as the emus can’t grind and digest the seeds, they pass straight through. These are then collected and reaped for their benefits.
Despite the title of this blog and all the wonderful characteristics I’ve just highlighted, quandongs aren’t a super fruit in the sense that they will save you from every ailment whilst keeping you the perfect size. Despite what the magazines will want you to believe, there is no actual super fruit, vegetable, animal or mineral that will do this. And you can quote this dietitian saying that. Like cultures all across the world, different groups have over time learnt that some foods are particularly rich in certain nutrients, and as a result have relied on them when times get rough. Think gogi berries and the Chinese, or acai berries and the Brazilians. However, I’m sure you will agree, quandongs are a pretty cool, significantly super fruit in Australia’s history.