Saltbush

Atriplex nummularia (Chenopodiaceae Family)

Old Man Saltbush is a familiar sight over large areas of the dry inland of Australia. It is a sprawling grey-blue shrub, up to 3 meters high and sometimes spreading to 5 meters wide. It is a long living plant, growing strongly after periods of summer rain, when it grows long tassels of flowering seed heads. In old times indigenous Australians mostly collected the minute Saltbush seeds to grind and roast for damper.

A special selection of Old Man Saltbush has been developed by Mike Quarmby for the gourmet food industry. Mike was involved in providing millions of saltbush seedlings to the re-vegetation and pastoral industry in order to rehabilitate degraded land. He soon realized that overgrazing had removed the best types of saltbush from rangelands, and only the bitter leafed plants were left. Mike undertook a lengthy journey to find natural stands of Saltbush that had been protected from overgrazing.

Mike established selection trial plots, with the end result being a much improved saltbush form, which is quite different in flavour to the hard grown wild plant. When grown in hot house conditions, it provides a large leafed vegetable, with a natural range of mineral salts, antioxidants, calcium and 27% crude protein.

The large fresh or blanched Saltbush leaves can be used as a wrap around meat or fish, in salads or as a leafy bed for grilled meat or vegetables. The dried Saltbush flakes are a wonderful addition to bread, grills, pasta and as a pot herb.

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