was healthy and variable.
were incredibly clever hunters and gatherers.
In Australian harsh
conditions where early European explorers had no idea how to survive,
Aboriginal People had passed on 50,000 years of experience through
generations and they had a diet at least as healthy as in a modern
Australian Aboriginaal food by Royal Botanic Garden Sydney via Flickr.com
Australian Aboriginal Food Was Very Healthy
It is incredible how clever survivors Aboriginal People were living in
the bush, in a country constantly plagued by droughts, floods and
bushfires. It was all based on thousands of years of experience and
knowledge never written down, but passed on through generations. Their
diet was perfectly healthy, they got all the vitamins and minerals we
get from our food today, and they were well aware of it. They also had
sweets, and they baked bread and cakes. They had a deep knowledge about
plants, animals and seasons, they practiced land management and they
knew how to hunt and gather sustainably so that their food resources
Aboriginal Food Was Different in Different Parts of
What Aboriginal people ate depends partly on where in Australia they
is a vast country with many different climatic
regions, and there were different foods available for people of
deserts, tropical rainforests and snowy mountains. They lived in family
groups and each tribe had their own territory. Inland territories were
larger than the coastal ones, because the food is scarcer in deserts.
Within the territory they were nomadic, and wandered to places where
food was more abundant in different seasons. They didn’t cross the
borders of other tribes’ territories, except when they accessing
some festivals or inter-tribal religious ceremonies.
Men Were Hunters and Brought Home Larger Animals
Men were hunters while women were gatherers. When hunting larger
the Aboriginal men often worked in groups, while smaller animals were
often hunted individually. There was plenty of animal food like kangaroos,
pademelons, bandicoots, goannas, lizards,
and birds like cockatoos,
swans and bush turkeys. Coastal people also
ate a wide range of seafood, fish and marine animals like dugongs and turtles.
Aboriginal men used a wide range of tools like spears and boomerangs
while hunting. Nocturnal animals were not hunted during the night, but
caught in their burrows where they were sleeping during the day.
Aboriginals also knew how to lure emus into spearing distance, and they
knew how to poison fish in lakes and waterways by placing certain
poisonous plants into the water.
Women Were Gatherers and Collected Plants and Insects
Women’s job was to gather mussel shells, plant food, insects
and mushrooms. There are plenty of eatable plants in the Australian
like herbs, seeds, nuts, fruits or roots of many species eucalypts
palm trees and
like Lemon Aspen, Akudjura, Wild
Rosella, Lemon Myrtly, Macadamia, Lilly Pilly, grass trees, fig trees,
Quandong, Cocky Apple and many others. Collecting and preparing plant
foods required a lot of knowledge because many plants are poisonous.
Aboriginal women were clever to remove the poisons in plants by
soaking them in water for weeks. Wattle, melaleuca
were a good source of nectar for sweets. Salt that was used in
cooking was collected from mangrove
leaves in coastal areas and desert
lakes in the inland.
Fat Was Important in Australian Aboriginal Food
In coastal communities, small seafood like mussels and oysters were
collected from rocky shores and mangrove habitats. In the mangroves,
there were also mangrove worms and mangrove crabs. Aboriginal People
used a fair bit of energy so fat was very important in their diet. They
ate certain animal species in the time of the year when they were
fattest. Bird and reptile eggs, and many insects
like witchety grubs, bogong moths and green ants provided some valuable
How Australian Aboriginal Food Was Prepared
There were various ways of preparing food. Meat was generally cooked on
fire or steamed in pits. Sometimes it was wrapped in bark or leaves. Flying
for example were wrapped in Alexandra Palm leaves, and when the leaves
were unwrapped after cooking, the skin was removed by leaves. Plant
foods were washed, grinded, strained, grated, boiled or cooked in large
seashells or in bark troughs. Roots were dried in the sun or roasted on
hot ashes and sometimes baked into cakes. Nuts and berries were
also sometimes baked into cakes and bread, which was eaten with meat,
fish, crabs and oysters.
Australian Aboriginal Food: Sustainability
Water was carried in kangaroo skin water bags. Water sources,
particularly in the inland deserts were sacred and looked after.
Aboriginal People also knew how to make other resources to last, they
didn’t hunt too young animals and they avoided hunting a species during
their breeding season. They domesticated the wild dingo
to help them hunt and find animals. They lit fires where certain
species needed regular burning. And they created habitats for insect
populations. Plant and animal parts that weren’t eaten were used to
make weapons, household items like skin bags and buckets, and an array
of bush medicine.
Where to Experience Australian Aboriginal Food
You can taste Australian Aboriginal food in many places in Australia.
tucker on menu; and Aboriginal people
organise bush tucker tours in deserts, tropical rainforests and many
national parks, where they explain what plants were collected, how they
were prepared and what they were used for. In many national parks you
can also see Aboriginal shell middens – heaps of shells left behind
thousands of years ago.
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