Michael Dillon, Film maker
Not for downloadCopyright
Dr Beryl Carmichael from Menindee shows Dr Jonathon King her local open air supermarket.
In this supermarket, the leaves, fruit and roots of the plants that grow naturally in the area can feed you and possibly save your life. There are too few people left who know their way around this supermarket and the bush foods it contains.
Some of the things she shows Jonathon include how to get water from gum leaves and twigs, the ruby saltbush, moon grubs, nardoo, quandong and even the nutritional value of kangaroo poo.
Burke and Wills attempted to survive on nardoo but did not know the correct way to prepare it. See other resources in Burke and Wills stories: nardoo, nardoo specimens and grinding stones. See also a discussion of Burke and Wills involvement with aboriginal people in the State Library of Victoria's information sheets: Burke and Wills and Aboriginal guides.
-What are you doing, Beryl?
-Well, I just broke this branch off, this little one here, to show you how-- we were taught how to survive. If ever we're out in the bush, and it's in the summer time, where there's no water inside, or whatever, and all the people would say, go and break a new branch off, and break a little piece of that. Peel the bark off it. And just twirl that around in your mouth.
-And that'll keep the moisture in your mouth all day.
-Can I try it?
-Yeah. You might have better luck to peel it all than me.
-Yeah, it's quite wet.
-So inside the bark, it retains water?
-Well, I tell you what. If Burke and Wills had known this--
-If they had known that, it might have helped them. If he'd have got to know him like I said, and sat down and listened, they got to negotiate talking going or whatever, they would have learned so much.
-Do you want to show us some of the things?
-Yeah. I was just looking at this plant, yeah. Actually, we call these ones the [INAUDIBLE]. And on this one, later on, there'll be fruit coming on it.
-And what do you eat of that part?
-The fruit. The fruit and the leaves.
-So that will come later?
-So you can eat the leaves?
-Yeah. Some of them are linked to the ruby saltbush.
-Mm. That's nice.
-So would they be a bit salty?
-They're inclined to be a bit salty, the ones that are linked to the ruby saltbush.
-That's right. And that would keep you alive.
BERYL: Oh, yeah. Of course. You'd have a small amount of that throughout the day, and just go and get something.
-So instead of walking past and tramping that down. Burke and Wills could've picked the leaf.
BERYL: Picked the leaf and picked the fruit off.
-And kept alive.
-I'm sure there would've been fruit on it. There had to be.
So Aunty Beryl. This is like walking to a supermarket and finding some fresh lettuce on the shelf.
-Exactly, yeah. It's very true.
-Is that all right?
-I keep saying we've got a smorgasbord of food out in the country. And a lot of people don't realize it. Even today, they don't listen to us, and they want to go out and toast it, or whatever.
-So you could eat the berries?
-You could eat the berries. There'll be all different colors from browns, orange, yellow-- all colors on it.
-So we could move in here and live for the rest of our lives.
-Once again, it's a big fruit salad bowl.
-It's like a fruit salad bowl, and we could be living in an orchard here.
-Yeah, that's for sure.
-But most wide fellows, like me, we'd just walk straight past that and think it's just rubbish in the way.
-That's just some of the plants that we can utilize.
-Underneath this white daisy bush, there could be a moon grub?
-Could be moon grubs, but they're also under the ruby saltbush ones, as well. And that little ruby saltbush is growing around, I think.
-So if you know the bushes--
-You know the bushes, you're all right.
-You know where the grubs are.
-Yep. This is the [INAUDIBLE] I was talking about back there.
-Ah. All those little red berries.
-Wow, there's heaps of them.
-Could you eat them?
-Oh, yeah. They're all edible.
-Probably healthier for you than food you get in the supermarket.
-Oh, that's for sure.
-So that's the little red one, [INAUDIBLE].
-Eat that part?
-Eat the red berry there, because later on, they'll come with a black eye on it as they get bigger.
-Mm. They're delicious. Aunty Beryl, Burke & Wills say, ate Nardoo. What's that?
BERYL: Nardoo is another plant. There's nothing growing here, but if we get to the mission, we might find some. Down near the floodplain.
-What is it Nardoo?
-It's a plant that they grind up to make the flour. Yeah. They get the seeds, and grind it up on their stones, and make the flour out of it. And then they mix it with water and cook little seed cakes.
-What else is in your supermarket out here?
-Whatever you find, [INAUDIBLE] I'll be happy.
[INAUDIBLE] wild peaches. That's another parasite coming on there. Once again, it'll be very [INAUDIBLE] on that.
-Well, what a waste of all this food here. Look, nobody's eating it.
-Aw, that's for sure.
-But they don't know about it, do they?
-They don't know, so they do not know what they're missing out on.
-Now, that's Salvation Jane.
-Is that imported?
-That's imported, yeah.
-Is that good for nothing?
Same as the wild hops grow around here. The cameleers brought the hops to feed the camels.
-It looks nice. But it's good for nothing?
-Yeah, good for nothing. Yeah, what's that? A kangaroo?
-Is this kangaroo?
-That poo? Kangaroo poo.
BERYL: See, that's edible too. If ever you're starving out in the bush, you've got no food--
-You can eat the poo?
BERYL: That's protein.
-Of course is is, yeah. So you can eat kangaroo poo?
-You can eat kangaroo poo. Keep you alive, mate.
-Oh, look at that. It looks like an onion.
-Very earthly. Smell that.
-But it actually looks like an onion. So what would you eat there Aunty Beryl?
-I think that it was these here, little green shoots.
-Eat them? So eat these little shoots.
-Put it in your stew, and soups, whatever.
-What about the base? Would you eat that, the root?
-No, not really. But there's another one there you'd eat.
-So should we break that off?
-So we break that off.
-Break that off.
-Like that. Actually, I might just use the old pocket knife there, and break that off, and then eat it. And then you'd eat that root.
BERYL: This one?
-It looks like an onion. I'll give it a go.
-Yeah. No, it's linked to the onion family, anyway. There's so many different varieties.
-Again, it's really sweet.
-Yeah. So this is the beauty of it. In a really good season, the flavors are all different. When it's dry, they'd be more bitter.
-And this should be good ruffage.
-Oh, yeah. Well, that's what I mean. You've got fiber. You've got everything out here.
-I'm never going to a supermarket again.
-Oh, I can't see any quandong trees yet.
-So, around us is just a supermarket full of good tucker.
-Full of good tucker, mate, edible tucker, at that.
-Oh, right. Well, Jonathan, here, we have the quandong tree. And the quandong tree, we call it the [INAUDIBLE]. It's an aboriginal name, traditional name for it. And to a lot of people, it's known as the wild peach, because the seed, the stone, inside is a great, big, stone like the peach stone. And you can crack the stone inside, as well, and get the kernel out. And when it's dry enough, you can grind it up, the kernel, as well, to make flour.
So there's many uses for the quandong, the [INAUDIBLE]. Today, we gather the really red ones, nice, red ones like these, and we make jam, sauces, chutneys, dried fruit, preservatives, and so on out of the quandongs. So it's got many uses.
-Yeah. It's a wild--
-Yeah, it grows wild.
- --plant, but it's actually rich in resources.
-Rich in resources, exactly. And you can come up on old, big orchards of it. And other times, you might only see one or two trees growing out on its own.
-This is the sort of food in the bush that could've kept Burke and Wills alive.
-It would have kept them alive a long time, this food, because you could cook it, boil it up, stew it up. You can do anything with it. It's all edible.
-Aunty Beryl? You know that Burke's artist, Ludwig Becker, he died of scurvy.
-Did he really?
-So if he'd have had these, he had these, he'd walked over to the bush. It's not far. He died.
-I can show you another--
-You know where he died?
- ... to cure his scurvy. It's true.
-Yeah? But you know where he died?
-And the bushes for these quandongs, full of vitamin C. It could have saved the life of Ludwig Becker.
-It makes you sad, when you think of the lives that were lost.
-It's tragic, just for want of knowledge. For want of talking to the aborigines.
-Yeah. Gee. Oh, well. Yeah, everything's there at your fingertips. That's the beauty of it. And people walk past it, not realizing or understanding what's there in the bush to help them. We've got the medicine. We've got the food. We've got everything-- the vitamins, you name it. There's so much out here that hasn't been harnessed.
Application of Robert O’Hara Burke
Crossing an ancient crater
Crossing the Terrick-Terrick Plains
View from Mt. Hope. Pyramid Hill bearing S. 30W. Sep. 1. 60
Near our camp at Spewah, Sep. 12. 60
Sketch of route from Balranald to Scot's Station, roughly drawn by dead reckoning.
Nord. end of the Pass through the Muntanie Ranges
Small cavity in Mutwanji Gorge with native drawings and impressions
What does it mean to be an explorer?
Camp on the edge of the earthy or mud plains
Jack Thompson farewells the Burke and Wills Environmental Expedition
Dr Paul Sinclair farewells the Burke and Wills Environmental Expedition
Re-Crossing Terrick-Terrick Plains
Re-crossing Mount Hope
The Arumpo Station region, then and now.
Menindee Then and Now
Jack Thompson talks about nardoo
Burke's Tree Then and Now
Wills’s map from Coopers Creek to the Gulf of Carpentaria
Crocodiles Then and Now
Story education resources
Education Public Record Office: Burke and Wills Graphic Exercise
A close look at the Burke and Wills monument reveals much about the way that Burke and Wills were remembered. Images and questions are provided to produce a short essay on the Burke and Wills statue in central Melbourne. VELS History Standard – Level 6
Education State Library of Victoria: Dig, The Burke and Wills Research Gateway
This website provides two education packages allowing learners to engage with a major event in a way that crosses many areas of the curriculum.
The first package provides lesson plans across five major curriculum areas: science, history, English, geography and art. The second package provides lesson plans for VELS Level 4 (Years 5 and 6), designed as an integrated unit across the curriculum.
Education State Library of Victoria: Deforestation in Victoria
Activities, worksheets and resources are provided to explore environmental issues such as deforestation and introduced species. Historical and contemporary maps show the changes in Victoria's forest coverage between 1969 and 1987. VELS Level 5