Insects: “Fair Dinkum” Bush Tucker in Australia
G’day mates. Before you ask what “Fair Dinkum” means… it an Australian slang for genuine/real. 😉 Now, back to the blog post topic. When people first learn of the concept of eating insects, it can seem very exotic and foreign. They’re a far cry from the sausage sizzle or barbequed steak to which we’re accustomed. But, taking a stroll down history lane, we find that eating bugs is not nearly as foreign as you may think.
Iconic Uluru | Photo: Ondrej Machart
Bugs as an Indigenous Australian Food
Indigenous Australians have relied on edible insects as a source of protein for time immemorial. Why? For one, they had a deep understanding of the impact of overhunting species. Indigenous Australians understood how humans, animals, plants and all of life are interconnected and this understanding, alongside their hunter gatherer lifestyle, lead aboriginal Australians to bugs as a sustainable source of food.
Witchetty Grub | © CameliaTWU / Flickr
Australian Insects and a Little Breakdown of the Greatest Hits
Witchetty grubs are perhaps the most well renowned Australian bush tucker. Like their cricket counterparts, Witchetty grubs are extremely nutrient dense, containing calcium, thiamin, folate, and niacin, protein and fat. But the indigenous Australians weren’t only in it for the nutrition. Grubs or ‘bardies’ were highly sort after for their delicious, almond-like taste and considered delicacies. It was mostly women and children who would dig for the grubs, generally located about 60cm below the ground feeding on the root sap of the Acacia bush.
Let There be Feasting
In addition to delectable and wholesome, we can add ‘cause for celebration’ to the Australian bug’s list of attributes. In the Bogong Mountains of New South Wales, hundreds of aboriginals from numerous tribes would come together between November and January for a good old fashioned Bogong moth feast. Throughout those months, Aboriginal people would trek into the Australian alps en masse where the moths hibernate in granite caves. Here we see insects acting as a connecter between cultures in addition to being an important source of fat and protein, multitalented creatures they are.
Bogong Moth | Image: Padil, Australia
Bugs: Such Sweeties!
Honey ants, often referred to as ‘honeypot’ ants were an important source of sugar in Aboriginal people’s diets. Collecting these ants was “hard yakka” (hard work), with their nest sometimes being located up to 2 meters below ground. Aboriginal people would dig a vertical shaft beside the ant’s nest and then gradually tunnel in towards the nest from an angle. They extract only a small portion of the honey ants, then re-cover the tunnel to protect the nest- yet another example of Indigenous Australian’s astounding foresight and sustainable food gathering.
Honey ants | Image: abc.net.au
Bush Food as the True Blue Australian Food
As fellow bug enthusiasts, it’s affirming to note that a culture so in touch with the natural world; its cycles, climates and geography, saw bugs in a similarly edible light. The historical lack of diet-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes in Indigenous Australians tells us that the traditional bush tucker diet (of which our bug buddies were a significant component) was an extremely healthy one. So there we have it mates, bugs: the ultimate in sustainable and nutritious Aussie bush food!
Australian desert bush tucker foods | Image: pixabay.com
A big thanks to Courtney Franz for writing 🙂