Nicholas Falconer

Positively nuts over the bunya

IT IS as versatile as a macadamia nut, has more protein than an almond and tastes like a chestnut but the bunya nut is often left to rot at the bottom of its tree.

If the bunya nut was at school, it would be the kid at the back of the class. It wouldn't be as beautiful as the macadamia, as popular as the peanut or as smooth as the almond. But for those who took the time to get to know the nut, they would discover a delicious flavour, versatility and a nut worthy of an invite to many a meal.

Buderim's Jeff Heriot certainly believes this to be so.

The semi-retired commercial line fisherman and part-time beekeeper is a self-confessed bunya nut nut. He just loves the crunchy nuts and said they were marvellous to cook with.

"What I love about the bunya nut is it's native to South-East Queensland. It's a beautiful, majestic tree, a living fossil and you can eat the nut," he said.

Despite the trees being native to the Sunshine Coast area, Jeff said the nut was the most undervalued.

When mature and ripe, the cones fall from the trees and are commonly just left at the bottom of the tree to rot. Very few people take the time to open the cones and retrieve the delicious nuts hidden within.

The trees themselves date back to the Jurassic era 180 million years ago and were an important food for Aboriginal tribes and a significant part of tribal ceremonies. The nuts ripen during January and February and fall off the trees during these months.

Each cone weighs 5-10kg and contains between 30 and 100 nuts.

Nutritionally, they are similar to chestnuts, being starchy, not oily.

Jeff said they also tasted similar to chestnuts.

"Some people say they taste similar to a potato but that underrates them. They are so much greater than a potato," he said.

The nuts are best boiled and then minced, crushed or sliced to be used in a great number of recipes. Or they can be eaten on their own with the addition of butter and a little salt and pepper.

Once the nuts are minced, they have the consistency of small grains of rice and can be easily incorporated into many dishes.

To see Jeff cooking bunya nuts, check out www.youtube.com/user/mugsyjeff.


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