Category Native Food

Urban Foraging – Amaranth

Amaranth is a common and highly nutritious weed easily recognised by its beautiful but rather peculiar nodding seed heads.

What Is Amaranth?

Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus) is an ancient grain, one of the first domesticated wild plants in Southern America, cultivated for at least 8000 years. High in iron, protein, magnesium and potassium, its value was recognised in ceremonies by the Aztec civilisation and mirrored today by its status as a so-called superfood.

There are about 70 species of amaranth, all edible, and many of them have become successful colonisers (or weeds), making it a reliable food source in many cultures. Many of the species turn into tumbleweeds, helping the spread of the seed. Amaranth is eaten all around the world including South India, where it is known as kuppacheera; Greece (called vlita) and China (called yin choi).


Considered a godsend by many a weary outback traveller, the bright scarlet-coloured fruit of the quandong tree – also known as the desert peach – has many beneficial uses.

Quandong (Santalum acuminatum) trees are widely dispersed throughout the arid inland and coastal regions of southern Australia including Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, Victoria and New South Wales, with remnant communities in remote areas. A relative of the sandalwood, the quandong grows to a shrubby tree between four and five metres tall. It has long, narrow olive-coloured leaves which taper to a point and its golf-ball sized fruit turns from a greeny-yellow to a bright crimson when ripe.

Lilly Pilly/Riberry


The fruit of the lilly pilly tree is called riberry, although some call it lilly pilly. There are about 60 lilly pillies in Australia, most in the genus syzygium, and most have edible fruit. Some fruit is overly astringent or bland. The one we will concentrate on is Syzygium luehmannii, small-leaved or clove lilly pilly, but I’ll also recommend S. paniculatum, magenta lilly pilly.

Description – Clove Lilly Pilly

The fruit of S. luehmannii (riberry, or clove lilly pilly) is small – up to 13 mm long, pear-shaped and dull red with one pip. The tree, with its tear-shaped leaves, can grow up to 30 metres in the wild, but in cultivation and as an ornamental street tree it is kept to between 5–10 m. It fruits from December to February.

S. luehmannii trees are generally found in the wild in northern New South Wales and are native to rainforests from Kempsey, NSW, to Cooktown in north-east Queensland. The species also has the potential to be grown in many other areas.