Bees are the most important species on this planet. We rely on them to pollinate food crops, feed crops, and the multitude of unique flora in our ecosystem. Australia alone is home to 1,650 species of native bee — and those are just the ones we know about. While introduced species, such as the honeybee, aren’t endangered in Australia, we now know our native bees face ever-increasing threats from climate change and the destruction of habitat. Last year, eleven species of native bee met the international criteria for a “threatened” rating, following an assessment of the impacts of the Black Summer bushfires.
Although some native bees are generalists that forage on a wide range of plants, many of them co-evolved as specialists alongside native flora. This means they only forage on a narrow range of native Australian plants — if those plants go, the bees go with them. Good news: Many native edible plants are bee-friendly by nature. When planning next season’s backyard crop, consider adding delicious bushfoods your family — and nature’s busy workers — can enjoy.
The world’s best culinary Geraldton Wax, boasting tangy citrus flavours in its edible needle-like leaves. This is a heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant water-wise bushfood.
Plant instead of: Lemon verbena, dill, camelia, lilac.
Enjoy it: Use as a flavouring herb in sauces, stocks, cakes, cocktails and botanical liquors.
A culinary herb and evergreen ornamental bush with a bonus spring flowering of purple cup-shaped blooms.
Plant instead of: Oregano, thyme, sage, box hedge.
Enjoy it: Use fresh or dried leaves as a flavouring herb; steep in hot water to make native tisane.
A sun-loving flowering herb with a complex aroma, a perfect match for Mediterranean flavours.
Plant instead of: Basil, sage, marjoram.
Enjoy it: Fresh or desiccated in tomato-based dishes; blended with olive oil and nuts for a native pesto; edible garnish in savoury drinks and cocktails.
A shade-loving native mint for part shade or full sun with a strong scent and flavour. Blooms with clusters of tiny pink-mauve flowers from late spring.
Plant instead of: Spearmint, peppermint.
Enjoy it: Fresh in salads, sandwiches, desserts, cocktails, water infusions and salt infusions.
Highly aromatic and intensely tangy in flavour. This edible ornamental produces creamy flowers during autumn.
Plant instead of: Birch, sambucus, cercis.
Enjoy it: Use the leaves as a flavouring herb or spice; freshen your home with the essential oil.
A Western Australian coastal groundcover bearing bright pink flowers and deep red fruit.
Plant instead of: Creeping fig, rhoeo, Irish moss.
Enjoy it: Suck out the sweet fruit pulp; cook the leaves like a vegetable; use sap like aloe as a salve for stings and burns. For more info go to www.tuckerbush.com.au