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Monday
Feb132012

Bunya Nuts – Enjoying this wonderful bushtucker

Bunya nut trees are majestic, towering pines that produce huge cones filled with tasty nuts that are sweet and starchy when cooked, rather like a deliciously nutty flavoured potato, or chestnuts. Growing naturally in pockets of rainforest in Queensland, they have special significance to Aboriginal people, who would have special gathering at the times when Bunya nuts were in abundance.

These slow growing trees were sometimes planted by early settlers, and old trees can be found at various places in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The other week we were lucky to have a friend show us a magical stand of old Bunya trees that had been growing on a property on the far south coast of NSW for many, many decades.  

Every few years mature Bunya Nut pines fruit prolifically between December and March, and luckily for us it was fruiting time! Bunya nut cones are huge, covered in spikes, can weigh up to 10kg, and fall from dizzying heights – meaning they could be quite lethal and not the kind of tree you’d want to plant in a suburban garden! You really don’t want to hang around under Bunya Nuts trees when they’re fruiting. It’s safest to collect cones that have fallen to the ground and rolled out from under the trees. Otherwise make your harvesting run under the trees very swift, not when the wind is blowing, and preferably with a hard hat! Slow Food Australia suggests that cones should be harvested and processed within a week of the cones falling.

The easiest way to break open the cones is with an axe.

Each nut is encased in an individual fibrous packaging that then needs to be peeled off.

Then you’re down to the nut in the shell. We found about 50 nuts in our cone, but there can be up to 100 depending on the size of the cone. There’s different ways to process the nuts, and we went with the method of boiling for about half an hour, and then splitting them open with pillars to reveal the yummy nut inside.

It is quite difficult to pry out the nut this way though, and if we have the chance to enjoy Bunya nuts again we’d try Patricia Gardener’s technique of splitting the tips open with a hammer first, then roasting them for half an hour and cracking them with a hammer.

We enjoyed snacking on our boiled Bunya nuts on their own – they really do have a delicious flavour and texture, like nutty potato. They were also a treat ontop of a veggie pasta dish.

Bunya nuts can also be turned into pesto or blended with honey to make a nice spread for toast. Have you ever seen a Bunya nut tree, or had the chance to enjoy the nuts? 

Reader Comments (25)

Yes, we tried this delicious indigenous nut about mmm...10 years ago, I think! They were extremely delicious, eaten just the way you prepared them (we loved them sprinkled with cracked sea-salt) but because they were so hard to harvest and cook, we've not tried them again.

I'm sure if we didn't have to jump a fence, traverse a paddock for about five acres to get ourselves a bunya nut though, we'd probably try them more often. It just about breaks your arms, carrying one of those suckers. ;)
February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris
what an awesome size 'fruit'!
February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristy
I've been keeping my eye on a few bunya pines in our area, but haven't spied any nuts yet. Now you've made me extra keen!
February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDarren (Green Change)
We have planted lots of bunyas, and though they take a long time to start bearing, we're starting to get some now. They're huge trees though, and spiky and what with dropping those huge nuts, not very suitable for most gardens. We've got to know where all the local ones are now, and keep an eye out for them. There's a knack to getting the nuts out. It's one of those things that is ridiculously labour intensive at first, then when you get it, it seems ridiculously easy. Bunya Nut pesto is really good - http://witcheskitchen.com.au/eggplant-pizza-with-bunya-nut-pesto/. Bunyas also make a great curry - they carry flavours like that really well.
February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Woodrow
I am camping for Easter at the Bunya Mountains National Park in Qld. Awesome trees. My Dad told me the story that all the different Aboriginal tribes would come from a long way and meet up there once a year. He remembers it vaguely when he was very young. I would love to try the fruit. Cheers, Wendy
February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWendy
My family have been enjoying them for generations. Cant wait for February each year.
I chop them up and put them in just about everything. The tuber like consistency helps to add bulk to most dishes and soaks up alot of flavour, plus the subtle nutty potato flavour is great for anything you would add nuts to. At our house it goes into my wife's asian stir-fry and fried rice type dishes as well as mexican, curries, stews, they are delicious roasted as well.
February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBruce
We now live in an area called Bunya and have been told that the pines on our new property are bunya pines, so hopefully this is the case (except for the lethal falling objects bit).
February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Blackburn-Wright
We found more than 10 of these fruits in our friends backyard. Sadly they were not ripe and had fallen too early. The storm we had probably nocked them off. But not to worry, we got about 20 nuts and it was a great new experience :)
January 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaimi
I've been eating these things for about 50 years and I like them cooked in the fire. Simply throw a couple at a time into an open fire or camp fire and have a stick ready to scratch them out. When they appear to be charred a bit they should be ready. Be aware that sometimes they will pop in the fire and could throw embers out of the fire. After being cooked in a fire they take on a smoky flavour. Enjoy.
January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPete
The Bunyan trees in Brisbane are fruiting at the moment (Jan/Feb 2014). We picked up a cone in a Red Hill park and removed the nuts. After 1/2 an hour boiling they have split enough for us to open with a heavy knife. Tastes very much like chestnuts. Yum.
February 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony
We have been really lucky finding a few fallen cones recently on the north side of Brisbane. Another nice way to enjoy them is after you've boiled them for half an hour, cut the nuts in half and fry them for a few minutes with a bit of butter/oil and then sprinkle them with a bit of salt.
February 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLucy
I've been gathering a few Bunya nuts in the area & taking them to Santos in Byron Bay where they sell them. They are a great versatile food. I'm sure there is a market out there for such good bush tucka. They can be used any way you would use a bean, potato, chestnut or pine nut. I like them boiled for 30 mins then added to a curry. Even better the next day afyer they absorb some of the curry flavours.
February 10, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarie
yum they are so good for us and the native animals, so always leave plenty for them. also if you have spare, apart from eating, you could take them to your local native plant propagator for growing. like others i love them in the fire, the oven or boiled. i describe them as tasting like a cross between a creamy potato and a chestnut. i heard the really big bunya festival in the bunya bunya mts in south east qld was once every 3 years and tribes from all around including nth nsw attended, walking on high ridge trails to get there. its cool that your dad remembers it wendy. i ate some for dinner last night and the leftovers now, yummmmm!
February 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterlucinda
Extracting the nuts seems to be the hard part. I found the cones that fell early in the season were green & hard to get into. Raising them above my head & smashing them on a concrete surface did the trick. They begin to crack apart after leaving them for a few days so it saves the extra exercise or resorting to an axe. Getting the cooked ones out is another challenge. I tried the pointy nosed plyer technique. I gave the knife away after the third bandaid. Any ideas on how to get the cooked nuts out would be appreciated.
February 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarie
hey marie follow the link in Linda Woodrow's comment above, she explains how.
February 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterlucinda
I have eaten Bunya Nuts all my life, having been raised near the Bunya Mountains. The tribes walked across our property on their way to their traditional bunya festival in the Bunya Mountains when my grandparents first settled the area, and before the tribes were rounded up and taken off to the various missions by the government. As a child, my mother cooked the nuts in the water she had cooked corned meat in, and they were always cooked for some hours. My husband's family cooked theirs in salted water overnight. I have recently got some and we cooked them in salty water in the Slow Cooker overnight. We gave some to friends and they did the same. The points split open a little if you slow cook them, and this to us is a good way to tell if they are cooked. We just eat them as a snack, but I have eaten them in a stir fry and a salad. They are quite filling.
February 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHelen
I had no idea what this giant pine cone was when I saw them under the prickly pine tree. Found a lone tree at Yackamoorundie Park in SA. Brought one home and left it outside on the verandah. I had a visitor yesterday who identified thanks to friends of hers from NSW who have a tree. My large 'nut' split in half by itself and the pods are falling off. Still a little unsure how to get the nut out. Do I have to smash the pods and then boil what is inside to get to another nut inside? A three step process? Do so wish I was young enough to try and propagate some. How could this be done in case a family member wants to have a go?
February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJan
I had no idea what this giant pine cone was when I saw them under the prickly pine tree. Found a lone tree at Yackamoorundie Park in SA. Brought one home and left it outside on the verandah. I had a visitor yesterday who identified thanks to friends of hers from NSW who have a tree. My large 'nut' split in half by itself and the pods are falling off. Still a little unsure how to get the nut out. Do I have to smash the pods and then boil what is inside to get to another nut inside? A three step process? Do so wish I was young enough to try and propagate some. How could this be done in case a family member wants to have a go?
February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJan
Hi Jan,
The cones I found that had been left on the ground & rained on had begun to sprout. I found the nuts sprouting into the rotting centre that looks like a pineapple when the nut pods are removed.
Going by pine cone terminology. The whole thing is the cone, the compartments -scale & the bunya has a case around the seed that pine nuts don't. So boil the bunya nut in the case for 30 minutes then remove the cooked nut from the case.Pliers were my preferred method. Just squeeze them open a little then roll down the casing.
March 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarie

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