It’s my latest obsession, Native Thyme Infused Vinegar. Herby, a little sweet, it’s a knockout, a gutsy dimension added to my most-nightly salads. And the strawberry gum, a generous scatter into a recent raspberry muffin mix, a thrilling new layer. These are merely two of the native bush foods Rebecca Barnes has been growing, promoting and educating about for over twenty years in her business Playing With Fire, part of what she poetically describes as ‘this huge, ignored, unknown world’.

It certainly was that when she started out, although the industry has made strides since then. The fact that McDonald’s offer a wattleseed coffee is evidence that native foods have finally entered the mainstream, and cooking shows like Master Chef which regularly feature them are furthering the cause.  Even so. While we have come a long way from the days when Davidsons Plum and lemon myrtle constituted our sum knowledge of the bounteous pantry of native foods surrounding us, factors like supply and cost of ingredients remain deterrents. Rebecca says that the former remains an issue and that  ‘climate is starting to impact the availability of some lines.’ She says that ‘we definitely need more growers that are serious about supply into the future.’ The supply issues affect price, she continues,  ‘as  do the low volumes inhibiting development of machinery and more efficient systems.’ All her products are still hand-made and -processed. ‘We just finished doing a food service order of 130kg of Davidsons Plum, all diced by hand!’

Meanwhile, what a rich store for us to draw on! Wattleseed, peppermint and strawberry gums, bunya nuts, rosellas, karkalla, aniseed myrtle, Dorrigo pepper, warragal greens. We need Rebecca to start her own TV cooking show so we can learn more about incorporating these glorious ingredients into our day-to-day cooking. For now, we’re lucky to have her at the farmers markets! 

Join us for ‘Welcome to County’ 9am Tuesday 5th July at New Brighton Farmers Market and 9am Friday 8th July at Mullum Farmers Market.

You will find Playing with Fire every Tuesday at New Brighton Farmers Market from 8am-11am and every Friday at Mullum Farmers Market from 7am-11am

Written by Victoria Cosford