At last, Australian trees are becoming known for their fruits, and at least being given consideration commercially.
Jellies have for long been flavoured by such exotic fruit as strawberries, raspberries, oranges and limes, but now the Aeroplane Jelly Company has put out Midjim, Lillipilli and Quandong flavours. The flavours are certainly different and the colours no less strange: midjim, dark blue; lillipilli, pale pink; and quandong, blue. It is as well to have a little information on these plants.
Midjim, Austromyrtus dulcis, (Myrtaceae family), is a small shrub to about 18" high, native to south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales. The plant has very small leaves, the new growth pink and silky. The tiny white flowers are similar to teatree (Leptospermum) flowers, produced in spring and summer, followed by small fruit about 1cm across, pale lilac with darker spots. The skin is soft, seeds very small and the flesh soft and sweet, so the whole can be eaten. Though small, the fruit are born in profusion, and are regarded by some as being the tastiest of native fruit. The shrub is often grown as an ornamental.
The name 'lillipilli' is loosely applied to various species of what was the Eugenia genus, but to confuse us, the botanists have now reclassified them as Acmena or Syzygium, (Myrtaceae family). The original lillipilli is Acmena smithii, with white flowers followed by small fruit about 1cm across, varying from white to pink to purple in colour. They grow naturally along the east coast of Australia.
However, we have other lillipillis up here in North Queensland. Syzygium oleosum, more commonly listed as S. coolminianum, is the blue lillipilli. Showy white flowers are followed by round purple/blue fruit to 2. 5cm across. It grows in the rainforests of Queensland and New South Wales, and the fruit is considered by some to be the best of the Eugenia fruit.
The well-known white apple, S. forte, and the red creek cherry, S. tierneyanum, are closely related, and plentiful in this district.
It was realized in the old days that fresh fruit was necessary for health, and these fruits were often used for jellies and drinks, in the absence of the usual fruits.
The quandong, Santalum acuminatum, (Santalaceae family), is found in the inland areas of all states of Australia. The tree is a root parasite and grows on the roots of acacia, casuarina, and a number of other species of trees.
The fruit is round, 2 to 3 cm across, with a hard stone which is easily removed from ripe fruit. It is reported to make good pies, jam and jellies, and also can be eaten raw. The flesh can be dried and stored for future use, and the kernel of the seed can be eaten as a quite acceptable nut.
The CSIRO has had a research programme going on quandong in recent years, with the idea of having it grown commercially. The fruit is rich in vitamins, and was much used by Aborigines and early settlers in the inland.
A closely related species is S. spicatum, commonly known as sandalwood. The wood, and particularly the roots of this tree, have been harvested for many years in Australia, and exported to Asia where it is prized as incense. This trade has resulted in eliminating great numbers of these small trees of the inland.
DATE: November 1990
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