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Wattleseed

Acacia ssp   INDIGENOUS NAMES Yarlirti (Walpiri), Arlep (Anmatyerr) Ariepe (Arrernte NT), Ganabargu (Warlpiri NT), Ngatunpa (Pitjatjantjara NT), Pulkuru (Pintupi, NT) Waliputa Murchison WA)   Wattle is one of the most common plants in Australia, and most have edible seed, but not all. Varieties with edible seed include Acacia victoriae, Acacai aneura, Axacia retinodes, Acacia sophorae and of course Acacia pycnantha (golden wattle, our floral emblem). One of the wattles to avoid is Acacia ligulata. Traditional Aboriginal knowledge tells us that it does not taste good, and that eating it will make your hair fall out! My advice is to eat only those species that are identified here or by known experts in standard reference books.   Aborigines make the most of whatever species of wattle growing nearby. Depending on the species, they cook the seed fresh in its pod or dry-roast and grind the seeds to make damper, and the sweet gums that ooze from the trees and harden are called bush lollies, a real sweet treat. Many wattles are also valuable as medicine plants, and the timber is used to make boomerangs, coolamons and provides the wood for many of the beautiful central desert carvings.   Wattles are very hardy and will grow in almost every habitable part of Australia, from the desert to the snow line. They are frost tolerant and withstand great changes in temperature.     Culinary uses Wattleseed is an extremely versatile ingredient and may be used in savoury dishes such as a pasta, bread and as a seasoning for meats. It seems to really come in to its own in sweet food (cakes, muffins, biscuits, ice-cream, mousse and custards), and wattleseed and chocolate is a marriage made in heaven. It has a strong flavour and should be used judiciously. Wattleseed can also affect the gluten content in flour and we recommend adding it towards the end of the mixing process.   The taste of wattleseed can be broadly described as a nutty with overtones of coffee or chicory. The seeds are high in oil and need to be roasted and ground, like coffee, before they can be used. It is this roasted and ground seed that has been used in the recipes.   Before using, either briefly toss the ground seed in a dry pan over medium heat to release the flavoursome essential oils, or infuse the seeds in boiling (or at least, very hot) water or milk. This method also softens the seeds.   The green wattleseed pods may be stored FOR A FEW DAYS?yep in the vegetable drawer of your fridge, but if possible it is much better to pick them as you need them. The dry ground seeds can be stored for up to 12 months (well) in a sealed container in a cool, dark place.     Health benefits Wattleseeds are a low fat, gluten free, high fibre source of carbohydrates (1). In terms of starch and protein, wattleseeds are comparable to most legumes. They are also rich in minerals, having a higher phosphorus and calcium content than many similar pulses, as well as a source of sodium, potassium, zinc, iron and magnesium (2, 3). Nutritional studies show that wattleseeds contain folate, dietary folate equivalents and thiamine (3).   Furthermore, wattleseeds are a low glycaemic index (GI) food and has been shown to lower the GI for other foods in which it is mixed (4). The glycaemic index is a scale from 0-100 ranking the ability of carbohydrate foods (starches and sugars) to raise blood glucose levels. Nutritionists now believe that high GI foods can affect long term health. Since wattleseeds have low GI’s, they are seen as an attractive food for diabetics. Wattleseeds are also thought to contain chemicals (soluble non-starch polysaccharides) which have been shown to lower cholesterol levels in humans, although more research is required in this area.   As with most Australian bushfoods, water extracts of wattleseeds showed some degree of activity against common food borne pathogens and spoilage bacteria (1).      
  • Zhao, J. and Agboola, S., (2007), “Functional properties of Australian bushfoods”, RIRDC Publication No 07/030, 35 pages.
  • Brand, J. and Maggiore, P. (1991). “The nutritional composition of Australian Acacia seeds”, in Australian Dry-zone Acacias for Human Food. Ed. A.P.N. House and C.E. Harwood. p. 54-67.
  • Food Standards Australian and New Zealand (2006), “NUTTAB 2006, Australian Food Composition Tables”, 340 pages.
  • Simpson S. and Chudleigh P. (eds), (2003), “Proceedings of a Workshop to Assess Prospects and Develop R&D Priorities for a Wattle Seed Industry”, Wattle Seed Workshop Proceedings, 12 March 2002, Canberra, RIRDC Publication No 03/024, 86 pages.