Story & photo Kate O’Neill
About 20 years ago, Rebecca Barnes stumbled across some native raspberries growing wild in the bush.
‘I didn’t even know we had native raspberries. I had no idea at all,’ she said. ‘I thought to myself, “Why can’t I buy these in the shops?”’
This was the beginning of a fascination with Australian native foods, which continues to this day, that has seen Rebecca establish her own successful wholesale native food business, and contribute to the industry’s development as a whole.
Rebecca’s stall, Playing With Fire, at both the New Brighton and Mullumbimby Farmers Markets, is the perfect place to explore some of the incredible flavours, aromas, colours and textures of Australian native foods.
There are seasonal local rainforest fruits like finger lime, Davidson plum and Bunya nuts, along with teas, jams, sauces, honeys, dried fruit powders, cordials, spices, and native food plants for your backyard.
Rebecca says Australia is home to more than 6000 native food plants, and although there has been a growing awareness in recent years, most Australians would still struggle to name more than a handful.
‘Locally there’s a fair amount of knowledge, but when I go into a city, it’s still like “what is that?” It’s a shame really, because aside from the tastes we’re missing out on, native foods have some hugely impressive nutritional and functional benefits, many of which are only just being recognised.
‘Lemon myrtle is calming, aniseed myrtle is an antidepressant, cinnamon myrtle is really good for your digestive system and helps you sleep, strawberry gum is good for your skin, and on it goes.’ says Rebecca.
Rebecca has combined a selection of these functional ingredients in her newly launched range of herbal teas made with 100 per cent native ingredients. These include a ‘No Worries’ tea designed to calm and relax, a stimulating ‘Energiser’ blend, and a ‘Dreamtime’ tea to encourage sleep – all of which are now available at her stall.