Parakeelya

Ark of taste
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Parakeelya

Parakeelya (Calandrinia balonensis) is a fleshy herb with succulent leaves of 4–10 cm long and attractive purple flowers of 2–3 cm across. The scientific name derives from the region where it was discovered from the early europeans explorers in the 1846: Balonne River. Whereas parakeelya is the native name given by the Aboriginal people.

This plant occurs throughout Central Australia: it is prolific in the arid regions west of the Great Divide spreading out across central Australia into Western Australia. It is highly dependent on winter rain and will not germinate without the rain. For example, in September 2014, following some winter rain, parakeelya was seen in abundance in selected areas, but in September 2015, when there had been no winter rain, there were no parakeelya plants seen in the same area as 2014. The parakeelya is becoming a rare plant. The fire management program used by the Central Australian indigenous peoples for tens of thousands of years has been discontinued due to many factors. The land management techniques practiced by indigenous people for thousands of years indeed involve fire, an element that has a crucial role in many aspects of these communities’ lives (environmental, social, cultural, spiritual…). Using controlled fires, a knowledge that is gradually lost, enabled for example to prevent hot incontrollable wildfires to develop, and helped biodiversity and the land to regenerate.
Introduced fauna such as the rabbit, camel and cattle are also contributing to the loss of this plant.

The whole plant is eaten, flowers, leaves and roots. The most common method is to steam the whole plant. In times of emergency, when there is little or no alternative source of water. The succulent leaves are eaten raw because of their high water content. The seeds are sometimes eaten, but they ripen unevenly and it requires a lot of hard work to gather a sufficient quantity of seeds.

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Spices, wild herbs and condiments

Nominated by:Amorelle Dempster, Convivium Slow Food Hunter Valley