The bush banana (Marsdenia australis) known as the silky pear or green vine is a small woody vine that grows by winding up other trees. It has creamy flowers and green leaves and when mature it releases many seeds that have light feathery plumes attached which enables the seeds to be widely scattered in the wind. This would suggest that the plant is widely spread, but that is not the case as it appears that it will only grow in drier inland part, areas that feature particular soil profiles. This is an important food source for people indigenous to Central Australia and it is also a totemic plant that features in indigenous mythology.
The Bush banana is seriously threatened due to the introduction of animals. The introduced fauna, camels, cattle and rabbits are now widespread throughout much of Central Australia and have a devastating impact on bush banana devouring fruit, leaves, vine and the roots.
Every part of the bush banana is used as a food source. The flowers are edible and have a slightly sweet taste. The young green fruit are usually eaten raw and have a pleasant flavour somewhat reminiscent of lucerne. The thick outer rind of the green fruit contains a white latex-like substance which can make the lips tingle unpleasantly if too many raw fruit are eaten. As the fruit matures and the seeds and their plumes develop, the whole fruit is usually cooked and eaten whole. The white root of the plant can also be consumed raw or cooked. If the fruit is over-mature then the seeds are often discarded and just the thick outer rind is eaten.
Image: Slow Food Archive