Going Nuts Over the Bunya Tree

The bunya pine has been growing wild in Australia for a very, very, long time. Some say dinosaurs likely snacked from them.

And you can too!

Well, provided you have access to a bunya tree. And a nut pod.

These incredible pine trees grow in the aptly named Bunya Mountains of Australia and have a legacy of being generously shared.

Approximately every three years the bunya pine drops enormous spiky cones or pods to the ground.

When aboriginals in the Bunya Mountains would find the pods on the ground, they would spread the word to neighbouring groups.

Indigenous people from different tribes would come together in peace, set aside their differences, gather the pods, harvest the nuts and huge celebrations would be held.

The celebration wasn’t the only thing that was huge.

Bunya pine trees can grow as tall as 150 feet and have a trunk measuring four feet in diameter.

And then there are the pods!

Each pod can weigh upwards of 20 pounds. To make them even more interesting, they are covered in spikes. When they ripen and start to fall, you definitely don’t want to be anywhere near the trees. But once they have finished thudding to the ground, the feast begins.

Each pod holds anywhere from 30 to a whopping 100 nuts. The nuts can be eaten raw, roasted or ground into flour.

Indigenous travellers would carry an entire pod on their travels, to better preserve the bounty until they needed nourishment.

Europeans arriving in Australia were often clueless about the treasure hidden inside the spiky cones. Instead of splitting them open to extract the nuts, those who had bunya trees on or near their property viewed them as a nuisance.

Every few years, when the trees started to unleash their bounty of cones, newcomers would often gather them up and take them to the dump.

In 2018 Leeton Lee set out to change all that.

Lee has been instrumental in introducing these incredible falling finds into modern Australian culture and onto menus.

You can find out more about Lee and these amazing nuts here.

If you have the good fortune to be in Australia on a year of a Bunya harvest, look for it on the menu. You just might get lucky.

The featured image is of Leeton Lee and was taken from the article highlighted above.

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