Bush Tomatoes

The Plant
The Bush Tomato is from the same botanical family as tomatoes and potatoes. The shrubs are small (up to 30cm) in the wild, with grey to sage-green leaves and small, yellow fruits similar to cherry tomatoes in size. The tomatoes are sun-dried on the bush: the fruit shrivels in the desert heat of summer and the colour deepens to a rich ochre colour and resembles a reddish, brown-coloured raisin. The process of drying is essential as it reduces the levels of alkaloids in the fruit, concentrates the fruit sugars and intensifies the flavour.
The Bush Tomato has long been one of the most important and precious of the desert foods, providing important nutrients in lean times. Traditional use was widespread. People would gather the bush tomatoes after they had dried on the bush, and grind them with a little water form a thick paste. They would mould this into a large ball, which was left to dry in the desert sun. These balls of dried bush tomatoes were then stored in tree forks, where they would keep for very long periods and retaining their nutrients.
The bush tomato plant loves the red desert sand and thrives in very low humidity. It only requires a little water and will not grow in moist conditions. The plant dies down in winter and regrows in spring, and can form quite dense mats of plants. Frosts will cause these plants to die off, at the surface level while retaining its viability underground. 
Our supply of Bush Tomatoes relied on wild harvest by Indigenous women from the Central Desert for many years. We became increasingly concerned by the potential for exploitation of these women and their knowledge and we became an industry partner to both the Desert Knowledge CRC and the CRC for Remote Economic Participation based in Alice Springs. Outback Spirit was involved with the CRCs for 15 years with research projects to create a viable desert agriculture for Indigenous Australians based on Bush Tomato cultivation and with research to determine how Indigenous knowledge could be protected and used by Indigenous Australians for their benefit. We have worked with Indigenous supply partners and are proud that our Bush Tomatoes are supplied exclusively by Indigenous owned and managed agriculture. We also purchase from Indigenous Wild Harvesters who value this role as a way to keep their cultural knowledge relevant especially as they train their children about these plants, and as a source of seasonal income. 
Jammy Bush Tomato Tart
Culinary Use
First up - we are in love with the Bush Tomato ! In a field of amazing and wonderful flavours this is still our favourite ever Indigenous ingredient.
The fruit has a spicy, piquant and gutsy flavour. This versatile ingredient can be used in marinades and sauces, savoury tarts and pies, and has the additional effect of thickening soups and casseroles.  You could make a Jammy Bush Tomato Tart, or make a soup with summer's best ripe tomatoes and a little Bush Tomato to provide a superb flavour twist. It can be added to compound butter or infuse olive oil with some bush tomato and Thyme. Bush Tomato is perfect for slow cooked dishes like lamb shanks too. And, of course, we think it makes the very best chutney!
We grind the sundried tomatoes into a granular powder which is ideal for all sorts of cooking and recipes. Be careful how much you use of this fabulous ingredient - more is not better, but more often bitter!
Bush tomatoes can be stored for up to two years if kept dry and sealed.
1 teaspoon is equal to 5g
1 tablespoon is equal to 15g
You will find more ideas in our Recipes pages

Health Benefits

This popular bush fruit is a great source of vitamin C, carbohydrates, dietary fibre and protein.  In fact, early Australian explorers used the bush tomato as a source of vitamin C in preventing scurvy.  

Compared with regular tomato, 100g of bush tomato contains two thirds of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C for children between the ages of 8 and 15 years (1).  It is also higher in the minerals potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium and zinc (2).  The bush tomato also contains the vitamins thiamine, niacin and niacin-related compounds.

Recent studies have focused on the functional properties of bush tomato and it has been shown to possess medium to strong antioxidant activity but low free radical scavenging ability. The functional properties of the fruit are due to the phenolics, anthocyanins, lycopene and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).  Bush tomatoes are very high in lycopene, which is an important antioxidant that scavenges free radicals. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant which has been linked to cancer prevention.  Tomatoes including the bush tomato are considered the best sources of lycopene.  Cooking tomatoes actually releases lycopenes and it has been found that cooked tomatoes (including bush tomato) can contain up to 5 times more lycopenes than raw tomatoes.  Bush Tomatoes also contain selenium, a rare mineral which plays a key role in the metabolism and has antioxidant properties.


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