The Bunya Nut (Araucaria bidwillii) is native to south-eastern Queensland especially the Bunya Mountains National Park. The bunya nut tree is a huge tree which bears a crop only after the tree itself is around 100 years old, and then it crops once every 2 or 3 years only. The crop itself consists of large cones up to the size of a very heavy soccer ball – 300 mm in length and 10 kg in weight. The cones contain the edible nuts (seeds) which are encased in a shell. The nut resembles a chestnut and is equally tasty, maturing in summer.
A majestic tree, the football-sized green bunya pine cones are hidden in the tree canopy weighing 5-10 kilograms and containing between 30 and 100 nuts. The cones will fall from the tree when mature and should be harvested and frozen or processed within a week.
The wedge shaped nuts, when removed from the fleshy cone, are encased in a wooden shell. The nuts can easily be removed from wet cones using secateurs or careful use of a strong sharp knife. They are easier to remove when hot after cooking in the shell. Nutritionally they are similar to chestnuts, being starchy, not oily. When boiled in their shell for 20-30 minutes the texture becomes waxy and can be easily sliced or pureed.
The nuts (seeds) can be eaten raw when fresh, but it is a lot easier to boil the seed pods to extract the nut. The nuts can then be roasted, sliced or pureed and used in desserts and savory dishes and spreads. The nuts can also be milled to a flour and then used in various doughs.
Bunya Nut Pesto
100g Bunya Nuts, de-shelled
1 bunch Basil
50g Parmesan Cheese
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
250ml Macadamia Nut Oil
2 tspns ground Pepperberry
Gently heat the Pepperberry in 100ml of the Macadamia Oil. Finely chop Bunya Nuts and mix nuts with the garlic and 100ml of the Macadamia Nut Oil. Roughly chop Basil in a food processor or blender with the 50 ml of the Macadamia Nut Oil. Process for one minute, and then add the Bunya Nut mix and the Pepperberry mix. This works best if the oils are poured in a steady stream. Do not over-process. This should keep in the refrigerator for a week – if it lasts that long!
Steamed Bunya Nut Pudding
Mix 1 cup of plain flour, 1 cup of cooked minced Bunya Nuts, 4 Tablespoons Muntries, 4 Tablespoons sultanas and 4 tablespoons sugar in a bowl. Dissolve 1 teaspoon bicarb soda in a small cup of milk. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Then alternate adding butter and milk to dry ingredients (use extra milk if too dry). Tie mixture in a floured cloth and steam for 3 hours. Serve with brandy custard and easy wattleseed icecream.