THEY'RE a humble bush tucker now being favoured by foodies.
Bunya nuts, found on the bunya pine native to south-east Queensland, have been found with increasing regularity at city organic food markets.
Bunya nuts were a rich source of food for south-east Queensland Aborigines, including the Gympie region.
During the bunya season (about now) they would temporarily set aside their tribal differences and gather in the mountains for great bunya nut feasts.
The Aborigines ate the nuts raw or roasted, and they also buried them in mud for several months. This was said to greatly improve the flavour and may have been a means of storing them.
Jan Sked of the Australian Native Plant Society says raw nuts in their shells that have been stored in the bottom of the refrigerator in a sealed container for several months have a much sweeter taste, and are as fresh as the day they fell from the tree, even though the shells may look a bit mouldy.
"I have found many uses for the fruit of the bunya pine, both cooked and raw and in savoury and sweet dishes.
"It is one of the most versatile and useful of all our native foods. My family and friends have been mostly willing, but sometimes unwitting guinea pigs, as I researched various recipes for the Go Native - Wild Food Cookbook. I have used the nuts in soups, casseroles, quiches, pies, pastas, vegetables, desserts, cakes, biscuits, bread, damper, scones, pikelets, pastry, lollies and porridge.
"The simplest way to prepare bunya nuts for eating is to put them in a saucepan of water and boil for about half an hour. Remove from the water and split open while still hot. Remove from the shell and serve with butter (pepper and salt if required). They may be eaten cold, but are better hot."
Eleanor and Wayne Kratzmann sell the nuts at their store at the Bunya Mountains, and have found people are slowly becoming more open to trying the unusual fare. The Bunya Mountains are home to the largest stand of bunya pines in the world.
Mrs Kratzmann said the growing popularity of the nut was down to its versatility - as well as the low fat content.
"I think people are more conscious of what they are eating. When you get a bunya nut, it hasn't been processed.
"There's always been a market there; but as they become more available, people are trying them more."
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