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Wattle we eat?

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Last September I took samples of whole and ground, roasted Wattle seeds to be exhibited at Slow Food’s Terra Madre Salone del Gusto event in Turin, Italy. The three species of Acacia, wild harvested in WA, joined a massive collection of beans, legumes and seeds from all over the world as part of the biodiversity trail to encourage preservation, and integration back into our diet, of all these wonderfully different varieties which offer high protein and fibre.

The amazing smell of the ground Wattle seed permeated my tiny suitcase, and everything in it, and after I handed it over for the display I rather missed it! If you’ve never smelt it, it has almost the aroma of coffee – with a hint of nuts, spice along with a sort of woodiness. I was intrigued to learn more about this mainstay of the indigenous diet, especially when Vincenzo Velletri from our Slow Food Convivium in Swan Valley told me it could be used to make a kind of coffee-like drink – as well as its traditional uses as a flour to make a damper or cake cooked in the fire.

So when the Accelerating Wattle Seed Industry Workshop popped up on my radar last month I was keen to attend! As was Araluen Hagan from 14K Brewery, who has long been experimenting with drinks flavoured with Wattle seed and was recently asked to make her special non-alcoholic cocktail, Native Decadence, featuring ground Wattle seed, maple syrup, vanilla and cream, for the Worldwide Indigenous Tourism Summit held at Crown Casino in May.

Supported by AgriFutures Australia and Australian Native Food & Botanicals (ANFAB), the full day workshop covered topics ranging from growing information, varietal characteristics, nutritional values and product development and marketing, and was put together by Accelerating Wattle Seed Production team; Peter Cunningham, Matthew Koop and Angus Jones.

Over 900 species of Acacias (Wattles) grow naturally across Australia and many produce edible, delicious and highly nutritious seed. Farming these perennial legumes has enormous potential as a regenerative form of agriculture. Extensive field trials undertaken by these three fellows over the past few years was the focus of the morning, and videos and data outlining the knowledge base they have built up for those interested in growing wattle seed in commercial orchard environment was extremely interesting and well documented.

For me the questions arising were not really about how to grow this crop – which after all is endemic to many regions of Australia, but how we cultivate this industry without completely losing touch with its indigenous significance – a topic discussed by Wardandi Bibbulmun woman Dale Tilbrook ( who also opened with a lovely Welcome to Country), at the end of the day. While Dale acknowledged the importance of increasing the availability of Wattle seed, she also expressed her concerns around how we can negotiate the marketing of the product to avoid it becoming a commodity. Her sentiments were echoed by Slow Food Leader Vincenzo Velletri who was keen to highlight the importance of sustainable food production and retaining and expressing the story behind every food.

The highlight of the day personally was connecting with the women behind the Wattleseed Collective – a social enterprise working with Traditional Owner groups in the Kimberley region to create an annual, sustainable, commercial-scale collection and sale of Kimberley Wattleseed to benefit local communities.

Tessa Mossop and Louise Beames of Environs Kimberley with Mandy Shoveller and Jacko Shoveller of Yiriman Women Bush Knowledge Enterprises.

This fantastic group is backed by Environs Kimberley, the peak NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) who advocate for the strong protection and better management of Kimberley lands and waters.

We are eagerly awaiting our first delivery of their wild-harvested seed to be at the Northern Valleys Locavore Store! I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about growing, eating or studying wattle for seed collection check out Wattleseed – a compact business case.  ANFAB is also a great resource.