What are the native Australian spices?

Wattle seeds (photo by John Tann - CC-BY)

Australian cooking generally follows the European style, with increasing influence from Asia. The European and Asian culinary traditions were settled before westerners colonised Australia in the late 1700s, but if you look beyond the long-established northern hemisphere spices you will find a fascinating range of native Australian spices.

Dorrigo Pepper comes from Dorrigo in northern New South Wales. It is sharp and hot, yet a little herby tasting. It’s great in an omelette or with soup.

Wattleseed can be ground up and used like nutmeg, cinnamon or raw cocoa. It’s not at all sweet, but has a dry woody flavor that is delectable with vanilla ice cream. Wattle seed can also be used in desserts and baking. In Australia you can buy muesli that includes wattleseed amongst its ingredients.

The Myrtles provide a wide range of spices. Aniseed Myrtle has a delicate scent and a delicate though slightly bitter taste. It goes well with pasta, seafood and sauces, although you can also use it in baking for biscuits and breads.

Lemon Myrtle has a sophisticated lime flavor. It’s an incredibly versatile spice that goes nicely with cheesecakes and just about any type of dessert. It would also work well with any white fish, or in a pasta dish.

Spice blends can make these spices more versatile. A mix of Lemon Myrtle, Cinnamon Myrtle and Chilli Powder (not Australian) is sold commercially as Rainforest Blend and is great for curries, stir fries, salad dressings, and in a marinade for barbecue meat.

Australian spices can also be used for herbal teas, with Lemon Myrtle being my favorite of these.

Don’t forget those Australian delicacies of Macadamia Nuts and Mangoes! They can be combined with spices in all sorts of interesting ways to make desserts, marinades, chutneys and so on.

Often overlooked in Australian cuisine is the Lili Pili or Lilly Pilly, a small fruit with a white flesh and pink or purple skin. These are often available free for the picking because few people realise they are edible. The fruit, about the size of a grape, doesn’t have a strong flavor but is wonderfully refreshing.

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