Friday, 21 March 2014

Bunya Nuts: collection and preparation!

I had been sitting on the computer looking at 'pick your own' fruit farms and trying to find ones close enough to us to make it worth going and getting them for home jamming, bottling or preserving when I came across a page on a website that had lots of interesting info about Bunya Nuts. Apparently February/March is Bunya nut season here in Brissy and the site had a bunch of locations where people had seen trees and you might be able to get a few from. I gave the list to the husband who travels around a lot for work but, despite my constant reminding,  he didn't find any actual cones... Obviously we aren't the only ones who had looked at that site!

However, a random visit to a friend in the Gold Coast Hinterland bought us in contact with some on the side of the road!! I was for the first time in my life not only in the presence of a Bunya nut but also in possession of three whole cones!

Here's what I did...

 
First - park your car well away from the trees. Bunya nuts can weigh in excess of 5kg each and will make a nasy dent in your car and an even nastier one in your head if they land on it. Bunya nuts have killed people, so don't linger under the trees. Collect your bounty - either whole or in pieces and take away from the tree to admire!!
 
They are VERY heavy and VERY prickly. If you are on the look out for them, I would recommend that you have gloves (thick ones) and/or a towel to pick them up with.
 

 
One bunya cone had smashed on the ground and started to fall apart, so once I got it home, I started with that one to get the nuts out. I haven't tried to get the nuts out of a Bunya that hasn't split by itself. I waited for the other two to crack and before harvesting the nuts from them.  The two on the left are still closed. The one on the right has split open. See the loose segments - its easy to see when you have one sitting in front of you.
 
 
Bunya Nuts are like giant pine nuts. And yes, I believe pine nuts come from a kind of pine cone! Read on to hear about my bunya pesto experience...
 
 
From the split one, it was easy enough to take each segment out (do it in order, its so much easier) off the core by simply pulling it off. Watch out for the spikes!
 
 
Then I used my hands to split or peel the thin end to reveal the kernel inside. Then I simply plucked the kernel/nut out and put in it in a pile. The segment (minus the nut) went into the garden as general mulch. It turns out the chooks don't like scratching around them...
 
 
Sometimes there was no nut inside the segment. The one on the left is either immature or not going to do anything more. These ones I heaved into the garden as mulch as well. If I'm wrong - I'm going to have a stand of Bunya trees there in, oh, let's say, 100 years! 
 

 
Out of the first cone, I got about 120 nuts and a big pile of mulch!

 
The cores and segments just got chucked in the garden as mulch/critter hideouts/sunshade.

 

 
The smallest cone weighed 4.7kg and yielded about 120 nuts. The two bigger ones maxed out my kitchen scales - Our guess was that they may have weighed up to a kilo more... And we got about the same amount of nuts out of them.


 
This photo gives you an indication of scale - they are roughly the size of a human head!
 
 
I left the two whole nuts outside at the bottom of the stairs to see if they would "ripen up" by themselves (and because I now had 120 nuts to figure out how to eat and didn't need to add to the collection straight away)
 
 
After a week, they started to spilt... 
 
 
 
And then finally fell apart a few days later all on their own, at which point I decided they were ready to be harvested with the minimum of fuss! 
 

 
See how tightly the segment are on the left? And then when they split, you can see the lighter brighter green on the inside.
 
 
I read about boiling and roasting Bunya nuts and we decided to roast ours along with the Pizza on Sunday night in the BBQ. I popped them on an oven tray and after the Pizza's were all done we popped the trays in the oven, turned off the gas and left them there for the night to bake away on the hot bricks. See this post for more detail on how we set up the BBQ for Pizza's.

 
The nuts are incredibly hard to get at! I cant say I ever imagined I would have gardening secateurs at the dinner table! We have decided that a specialised macadamia nut cracker is the way to go with these nuts as I am sporting a very nasty cut on my finger after trying to use a large heavy kitchen knife to get into one. The skins are tough and slippery! Smashing them with a hammer and then picking out the kernels is a safer way to do it than using a knife.
 
 
And the verdict on taste....?
They are not the tastiest thing I have ever eaten...
 
We have been eating them in the afternoon like nuts, bashing them open whilst sitting on the edge of the pergola with a cuppa or a wine and chatting. I actually cut myself when I was attempting to make bunya nut pesto in the kitchen as they are fun, very different, but not so compelling to eat plain.
 
I have discovered that once they are shelled, they grow mould quite quickly. We went to the trouble to bash open about 30 of them and I popped them in a jar on a shelf. They grew mould in about 2 days. The next batch sat in a bowl on the bench (thinking it was the moisture trapped in the jar as there is no air circulation in the jar) but they also started to grow mould. Hence the pesto idea.
 
I am currently in possession of a few hundred Bunya nuts (and a very sore finger) and on the look out for Bunya nut recipes for processing or storage ideas. All of mine are currently sitting in the shells on the table in the backyard waiting for the 5.30pm bunya nut bash (with a glass of wine) until I figure out another way to preserve them. (Could I preserve them in alcohol maybe?)
 
If you are keen to learn more about Bunya Nuts - have a look at some of these links!
* Update 27/03/14
After reading Linda's comment (below) and having a look at her bunya nut post, I tried boiling the bunya nuts and have to agree that they are nicer boiled! I took her advice and dipped them into a oily dip (in this case a home made egg based mayonnaise) and they were really quite good. Filling as well! Thanks Linda!


Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for foraging for food!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for not paying for food that can retail at almost $1 a nut!!!
Time cost: 50 years to grow the tree,10 seconds to pck the cone/s up off the ground and hide it in the boot of the car just in case you shouldn't be picking them up, about 10 minutes to remove the nuts from the cone, 1/2 and hour to roast them all and up to three days to figure out how to get them out of the shell safely!
Skill level: A 'give it a go' attitude!
Fun-ness: Great fun to find and eat something that I've only ever read or heard about!

3 comments:

Linda Woodrow said...

There is a knack to them, both getting into them and gourmeting them, but once you get the knack, I reckon that score will rise! I look out for them every year. I pressure cook mine. I think that softens the shell so they are easier to get into, and I find them a bit dry baked. You could also boil but they only need about 20 mins in a pressure cooker, and probably an hour boiling. When they are cooked, the tip splits open just a little bit. You can get a knife blade in and then they are easy to split without chopping off fingers. You can do it quite fast once you get the hang of it. Then what to do with them? Pesto is good, especially for pasta. And they're good with a dipping sauce that has a bit of oil in it, like mayonnaise based or creme fraiche based dips. My method of dealing with them is here: http://witcheskitchen.com.au/tag/bunya-nuts/

Practical Frog said...

Ah! Thank you Linda! My husband came home with a pressure cooker a few weeks ago that was unused by a friend. I have never used one - but here is my golden opportunity! I will have a look at your page now! Cheers - K x

Practical Frog said...

And doesn't that make a difference! Thanks for the tip Linda! - K x

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