Bush Tomato

Ark of taste
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The mature Bush Tomato (Solanum cleistogamum), also known as kutjera, kampurarpa or akatjura, is a highly nutritious pale yellow fruit with a sweet flavor. It grows on a small bush with olive green leaves and pale purple flowers. The plant is found throughout the Central Australian deserts of the Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, mostly in spinifex covered sand dunes above salt lakes.
The fruit of the Bush Tomato is ready to harvest during late autumn and early winter, when it is about the size of a small grape and has dried and shriveled on the bush. It can then be stored for many years. The roots of the Bush Tomato can remain dormant for several years until conditions are suitable for it to grow again, usually after a bushfire.
The Bush Tomato has been eaten by Central Australian Indigenous for tens of thousands of years and features strongly in the Pitjantjatjara Dreaming (mythology). The Bush Tomato has a strong flavor, similar to sun dried tomato, and is very fragrant. When the fruit is still fresh on the plant it is possible to smell the sweet caramel aroma from quite a distance.
Although the Bush Tomato is an important staple food for many indigenous communities, it is necessary to be cautious when collecting it in the wild. There are several species of Solanum that all look very similar, and all contain the toxin solanine in the unripe fruits. There are only a few species which detoxify upon ripening and become edible for humans. Overconsumption of the ripe dry fruits may also have a laxative effect.
The roots of the plant are used as traditional medicine, where they are baked in ash and then peeled and used to treat toothache. There is also some evidence that the plant may have contraceptive qualities.
Traditionally the Bush Tomato has been collected wild, however it is now being cultivated commercially by some Indigenous communities, who use irrigation to extend the fruiting season from two to eight months. In the wild it is becoming rare and difficult to find, mostly because grazing cattle and other introduced species (such as dogs and camels) feed on the fruit when it is ripe.

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Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves

Nominated by:Andrew Dempster