Australian native food is growing in popularity, but to many Australians it’s still a mystery. Accepted local fare such as kangaroo, saltbush and pippies are just a small fraction of thousands of potential ingredients in our own backyard. Some of these foods have flavours we’re not used to – at times bitter, astringent and powerful – so this series will demystify them, one ingredient at a time.
Davidson's Plum (Orray)
Like many new-wave Australian distillers, Applewood Distillery in the Adelaide Hills is not afraid to experiment with native botanicals. Earlier this year the small-batch distillery released a Green Ant Gin – infused with lemon aspen and desert and blood limes. But for owner and chief booze maker Brendan Carter, native plum is the pick of the bunch. He uses it in Applewood’s aperitifs Okar and Red Okar.
“Davidson's Plum has to be up there with my favourites of all of them to use,” says Carter. “It has the most vibrant colour and incredible flavour profile. I discovered it years ago when we first started playing around with Australian natives and it was an instant love for its sour profile that stimulates your saliva which in turn makes for a fantastic aperitif or digestif.”
The plums feature regularly on menus across the country, used by chefs such as Kylie Kwong, Jock Zonfrillo, Ben Shewry, Mark Olive, Peter Gilmore and Matt Stone. “Davidson plum is an amazing ingredient,” says Stone. “It's very tart but extremely aromatic. We make a sweet and sour sauce to serve with duck at the restaurant; it’s the perfect balance for the sweetness.”
The three varieties of Davidson’s Plum (named after one of Queensland’s pioneer sugar cane farmers) are found in a small pocket on the eastern Australian coast – from tropical far north Queensland to northern New South Wales. They have been a staple in the diet of Indigenous Australians living in the area for tens of thousands of years. They are packed with nutrients, too – higher in antioxidants than blueberries and containing more vitamin C than oranges.
The plums are highly acidic with dark purple to blue-black skin and blood-red flesh. The tart and intense fruity flavour makes for a great addition to sweet and savoury dishes, including cakes, jams, chutneys, sauces, yoghurt and ice-cream. It’s a nice lemon substitute, too. The plums have a short season, so you will usually buy them frozen – just thaw them out on paper towel.
Stone has some tips for cooking with Davidson’s Plum at home: “It’s great to use in desserts. We make a parfait with it. It balances really well with the sugar and cream. It also makes amazing jam.”
Davidson’s Plum can be purchased online from Something Wild.
Disclaimer: Rebecca Sullivan owns native food product label Warndu