Many Australians know that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is important for good health. But how many Australians knew the health benefits of good old bush tucker?
A lot of people don't know about just how good some Australian native wild foods are for you - even many Australians aren't aware of the health benefits of some well known "bush tucker" plants that are prized as being rich in Vitamin C. To make Australians and others aware of the benefits of "bush tucker", the nutritionist Dr. George Kowalski developed the nutrient-rich fruit juice called "Kakadu Complex": he wanted Australians and others to discover the health benefits of their indigenous fruits. As part of the research into the making if Kakadu Complex, Dr. Kowalski investigated the fruits that the Aboriginal (Koorie) people had eaten and enjoyed prior to the introduction of European fruits and vegetables. He found five key fruits that were highly laden with the important antioxidant Vitamin C: Kakadu plum, Illawarra plum, mountain pepper, wild rosella and quandong. These five traditional Australian bush foods were combined with other antioxidant-rich fruits such as green tea, goji berry, and cherry to make Kakadu Complex.
Kakadu Complex takes its name from Kakadu plum (Terminalia ferdinandia). Kakadu plum has a number of other names, including "billygoat" (which doesn't look quite so good on a package!), "murunga" and "gubinge". The Kakadu plum looks a bit like a feijoa, being yellowish-green when it is ripe. This fruit is rich in the antioxidant Vitamin C, making it well and truly a "superfood": Kakadu plum is reputed to have more than 100 times the Vitamin C content of oranges. Many Kakadu plums grow wild in the northern tropical parts of Australia, but commercial demand has grown since the antioxidant properties of these fruits were discovered, and proper plantations are now being established so the fruit can be grown and harvested sustainably.
The second indigenous ingredient in Kakadu Complex is Illawarra plum (Podocarpus elatus). This is also known as the "plum pine" or the "brown pine". This is rich in the free-radical scavenger Vitamin C, which is why it has been chosen. The taste of Illawarra plum is very distinctive, being not quite like a plum and not quite like pine. The tree that Illawarra plums grow on is also used for timber and as an attractive evergreen plant in gardens.
Mountain pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata, also known as T. aromatica) gives a peppery bite to Kakadu Complex. Mountain pepper is well known by lovers of "bush tucker", as it can be used as a wild-growing spice that adds bite to savory dishes as well as providing the eater with antioxidants.
Wild rosella (Hibiscus sabdariffa) sounds like a type of parakeet, but it's a fruit, or else it wouldn't have been included in Kakadu Complex! This plant is a relative to the ornamental tropical hibiscus flower and is found in a number of tropical regions in Australian and elsewhere. Because wild rosella has so many health benefits, it is known and used in many traditional medicines and home remedies, and it is also used as an ingredient in herbal teas. The rich red of this fruit - and the bright color indicates that it's rich in phytochemicals - means that it is also used for natural color in other food products. Wild Rosella also contains pectin (great for digestion), which means that it was (and is) popular with makers of home-made jam.
The last indigenous ingredient in Kakadu Complex is quandong (Santalum acuminatum), which is also known as the native peach. This plant is a relative of the aromatic sandalwood, and the fruit shares some of the antibacterial properties of the essential oil derived from its better-known relative. Like the other Australian super fruits used for Kakadu Complex, it is rich in Vitamin C and other antioxidants.