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.
Green Ants (gulguk)
Kris Lloyd’s Woodside Cheese Wrights is well known. Its Monet (goat’s cheese with edible flower art) is found on menus and in fridges across the country. For Lloyd’s newest product, Anthill, she went back in time (around 60,000 years).
Anthill is a chèvre coated in lemon myrtle and topped with a sprinkle of green ants, or gulguk to the Larrakia people who harvest them in Arnhem Land. Apart from being a tasty source of protein the ants were traditionally used as a remedy for colds.
“I have been using lemon myrtle for years and when I first came across green ants and tried them it was just like a match made in heaven with the chèvre,” Lloyd says.
It’s not just Lloyd who thinks so. The cheese was voted one of the top 16 at the World Cheese Awards late last year.
Gulguk are tiny but mighty, packing a citrus punch – think lime with a hint of coriander seed – and a popping-candy-like effect when they hit your tongue. The acid in their little ends cuts through the fat in the cheese.
The versatile ants are gaining popularity in restaurants and bars around the country. They regularly feature on Jock Zonfrillo’s Orana menu and Rene Redzepi used them at his Noma pop-up in Sydney last year.
Now, two South Australian distilleries have independently released green-ant gins. Applewood Distillery’s Green Ant Gin is also infused with lemon aspen, desert limes and blood limes.
Adelaide Hills Distillery has also released a Green Ant Gin through a collaboration with Australian native-food outlet Something Wild. It features other native ingredients such as finger lime, strawberry gum, lemon myrtle, anise myrtle, pepper berry and native juniper (boobialla). The ants are sourced ethically through traditional landowners.
At home the ants can be used on desserts, through salads, in meat marinades and as a cocktail garnish – and a little pinch of them in the morning is a great source of protein.
Green Ant can be purchased at Something Wild in the Adelaide Central Market or through its online store.
Disclaimer: Rebecca Sullivan owns native food product label Warndu.