NUTTY: South Burnett Food Ambassador is a big fan of the humble bunya nut.
NUTTY: South Burnett Food Ambassador is a big fan of the humble bunya nut. Christian Berechree

Bunyas prove to be a tough nut to crack

ONE South Burnett food expert wonders why bunya nuts have never achieved worldwide fame.

After all, as South Burnett Food Ambassador Jason Ford says, they're nutritious, delicious and one of the most versatile native ingredients cooks are likely to come across.

Yet, they have never gone global like the macadamia, and still sit squarely in the "speciality" category.

"I've done my research over the years on bunya nuts, and I wanted to know why they had not become something that was mass produced," Mr Ford said.

"It all comes down to the fact that they're hard to open. No one has put in the effort to figure that out."

Mr Ford said he had come across home made guillotines perfectly designed for cracking the tough outer shell, but it was yet to be introduced to the mainstream.

As Mr Ford said, this is a shame, as the bunya nut could be the perfect addition to any pantry.

"They do have a slightly different texture than most other nuts," he said.

"They're firm, kind of like a firm potato. In some ways, they really could replace potato. You can put them in stews and they'll absorb the flavours. All those aromatics like garlic, they soak all them up, and they won't disintegrate like potatoes."

Of course, the fact they only grow on trees that live for hundreds of years and take at least four years to drop their gigantic pine cones is another challenge.

"They're not cultivated, they grow wild, so you've got to wait," Mr Ford said.

"Bunya nuts are a funny thing. A normal season can be around four years.

"If you have a bad season, you've got to wait eight years then."

Part of our food history

BUNYA nuts are an iconic feature of the South Burnett landscape, and also an important part of our indigenous heritage.

According the Discover South Burnett website, Aboriginal tribes historically travelled to the Bunya Mountains to meet together and feast on the native food during fruiting season, between December and March.  

"The Australian Aboriginals knew a good thing when they tasted it and consequently in early times would set aside any tribal differences to travel for hundreds of miles to feast on this native bush food," the website says.  

Native Plants Queensland also refers to the nuts' indigenous heritage on its website.  

"Bunya Nuts were a rich source of food for the Aborigines of southeast Queensland," the website says.  

"The Aborigines ate the Bunya Nut raw or roasted, and they also buried them in mud for several months."