NATIVE HAUL: Gary Bagnall has been cooking with bush tucker, including bunya nuts from local trees.
NATIVE HAUL: Gary Bagnall has been cooking with bush tucker, including bunya nuts from local trees. Scott Powick

New Leaf bakes up bush tucker

MURWILLUMBAH cafe owner and former Tweed mayor Gary Bagnall has sparked a wave of interest across the region after bringing bush tucker into his New Leaf Cafe kitchen.

Mr Bagnall recently posted photos of himself harvesting locally grown bunya nuts - which grow on the native bunya pines - for use in his cafe.

Having used the nuts in the past, but not for a few years, Mr Bagnall said his interest in bush tucker had been steadily growing.

"In recent years I became more aware of importance of the bunya nuts,” he said.

"I learnt that there were walking trails over the mountains, at the back of our shire, which the first Australians from the Tweed used to journey to the great bunya forests in Queensland.

"So when the cones started falling in huge numbers all over our shire, I was keen to start cooking them.”

Mr Bagnall said his "obsession with local native plants” had also extended to his home garden, which consists entirely of native plants.

He said bringing bunya nuts into his kitchen was "an appreciation of the great tree itself” and a nod to "its history and importance to first Australians in our region”.

"The trees are all over the shire,” he said.

Bunya nuts ready to be used at New Leaf Cafe.
Bunya nuts ready to be used at New Leaf Cafe. Scott Powick

"Some people drive by them every day without realising.”

He said harvesting the nuts - which come from giant bunya pine cones - was time consuming but fairly straightforward.

"I usually crack the shell slightly and bake them or I just boil them,” he said.

"Then I open them with a knife.”

Mr Bagnall has been using the nuts in curries and as a breakfast side dish, but said they could also be ground into flours or used to make dukkah, cakes and more.

He's also been using native finger limes - grown at his home - in salads and fruit dishes.

He said there had been a "huge response” to his recent move to bring native food into the cafe.

The New Leaf Cafe owner Mr GAry Bagnall has been cooking with Bush Tuker, including Bunya Nuts from the Bunya Tree which grows locally.
The New Leaf Cafe owner Mr GAry Bagnall has been cooking with Bush Tuker, including Bunya Nuts from the Bunya Tree which grows locally. Scott Powick

"(People) are asking on social media where to find the (bunya) trees, how to prepare and cook the nuts,” he said.

"We have been putting finger limes in some of our desserts and people are buying the dishes just for the finger limes.

"A few weeks ago we were making Davidson plum jam from the plants out the front of the police station and cooking it up with lemon myrtle growing in Murwillu- mbah's Main Street.”

He said it was "inspiring” to see the Tweed Shire Council plant "thousands” of native plants throughout the shire in recent years and hoped they would increase the number of native food plants from which residents could forage.

"I believe it is important to reforest as much as we can in our shire, with the natural occurring plants from this area,” he said.

Meanwhile, New Leaf Cafe has also jumped on the "zero waste” bandwagon, with a move to stamp out plastic water bottles. Mr Bagnall said an overseas trip a decade ago "cured” him of the plastic bag.

"We have not bought any since then,” he said.

"Then it was food containers and cutlery. Now it's the fridge's turn.”

He's now offering filtered water and refillable glass bottles, which customers can return for a 50c refund.



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