Discovery of native thornless raspberries is a game-changer for the native food industry

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As a gatherer for over 40 years, wild food researcher Peter Hardwick is no stranger to discovering all manner of uncultivated, native and wild foods in the bush.

But it’s his discovery of a native thornless raspberry plant next to a parking lot five years ago in Bundjalung Country in northeastern New South Wales that has the potential to change. the deal for the indigenous food industry.

“I grabbed a few suckers and brought them home and luckily I think one or two struck, and from there I managed to spread it, and I grew it and saw how it works and here we are with a very nice specimen, ”he said.

Although native raspberries are a popular native fruit, they have thorny stems and growers find them difficult to harvest.

Peter Hardwick, wild food researcher and forager, with Pete’s native thornless raspberry.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

“So finding one without thorns is fantastic because it means we can put it in backyards, schools, city parks and that sort of thing.”

Two native raspberries in hand.
Two native raspberries from a thornless plant.(Provided: Peter Hardwick)

But it was a matter of waiting and seeing if it was suitable for commercial production.

“It definitely has a characteristic… but it needs to be tested; it’s a bit more complicated before it gets to that,” he said.

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Nursery multiplying seedlings without thorns for schools

Daniel Stewart of the Daley Fruit Tree Nursery in Kyogle has been propagating the raspberry variety over the past few months and is delighted to be working with her.

Daniel with the native thornless raspberry mother plant.
Daniel Stewart with the native thornless raspberry foot at the Daley Nursery in Kyogle.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

“Getting stung and stung by many plants will reach you after a while, so it’s a welcome relief.”

There is a high demand for native raspberries at the nursery and it sells regularly Rubus probus, commonly known as the Atherton raspberry.

“The thornless native is definitely tastier and more of a compact bush, and a lot easier to work with and more backyard friendly,” he said.

Flower growing on a native raspberry tree without thorns.
A flower on a thornless native raspberry seedling growing at Daley’s Nursery.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

Mr Stewart said he believed the Atherton was more productive and that there would be a demand for it.

A freak of nature?

But how did the native plant become thornless? Mr. Hardwick says that is a difficult question to answer.

Thornless, thorny native raspberry cuttings on one hand.
Mr. Hardwick holds his native thornless raspberry next to a thorny native raspberry.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

“Finding something without thorns is quite unusual, I don’t know what kind of number to put on it, it could be one in 10,000, it could be one in a million, but the absence of thorns is a very unusual feature in the native raspberries just appear without plant selection. “

Bundjalung chef enthusiastic about the potential of traditional cuisine

When native raspberries are in season, Mindy Woods uses ‘bush lollipops’ in breakfast, dessert, and cocktails at her Karkalla restaurant in Byron Bay.

“It’s a pretty painful process to harvest native raspberries and the fact that we can potentially harvest them now without damaging our skin and limbs is going to be absolutely amazing.”

Mindy Woods wearing a white shirt standing in front of trees.
Mindy Woods says it’s important that her people be involved in any marketing of the native thornless raspberry.(ABC: Kim Honan)

Bundjalung Widjabul Wia-bul’s wife said it would be a game-changer for the indigenous food industry and its drive to make indigenous food more accessible.

“We will be able to propagate them, plant them not only in homes but, hopefully, in schools all around us so that children are connected to these amazing traditional foods, that is what it is all about,” he said. she declared.

A bowl of native raspberries.
There were eight species of raspberries native to Australia until Mr. Hardwick discovered, saved and propagated a thornless variety in the country of Bundjalung.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

Protect traditional rights

Ms Woods said it was absolutely necessary that the people of Bundjalung be involved in any marketing of the native thornless raspberry.

“Our ancestors have been dealing with these incredible ingredients for over 60,000 years, there is a lot of knowledge, they are connected not only with us because they are food, but they are connected to our culture and the country” , she said.

Mr. Hardwick is keen to involve the traditional owners in any cultivation development.

“I am very happy that discussions have started on a possible collaboration with a bush food company based in Bundjalung with the native thornless raspberry,” he said.

He said more protection is needed for traditional rights regarding indigenous foods.

Native raspberries growing in a pot.
Mr. Hardwick’s native thornless raspberry blooms in a pot.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)


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