Jobs Events Advertise Newsletter

Mangarri man: From Halls Creek with Love

Phil Docherty -

First love is the sweetest they say and so it was for me when I tasted my first mangarri from the Kimberley. My mate Robbie Wilson a Djaru/Gurindji/Gajerrong man from Wyndham and Halls Creek had given me a handful of minyjaarra to try. They were sweet and chewy, and the bonus was you could store them for later. Do you like them he asked, too busy chewing I just nodded. Can you grow some was his next question. I assured him I would.

The trouble was it wasn't as easy as 1,2,3. My first attempts were unsuccessful but as they say if at first you fail, try, and try again. It was pure luck in the end, I'd left some old seed in a tray on the bench over the dry season. and I started watering again four months later and to my amazement I had a few seedlings pop up. Not many but enough to give Rob and his family one.

With a little research I found that this wet, dry, wet technique is often the only way some seeds germinate. It is especially relevant when rain is seasonal and spasmodic, seedlings don't want to germinate on the first rains and then die because they don't get any follow up for a month or two.

Minyjaarra or Vitex glabrata as it is known in the scientific community grows in hilly country, both in sandstone and limestone favouring creek lines associated with rocky gorges. Tough country if you want to get your roots down and survive. Vitex glabrata flower and fruit over the wet season and then drop their leaves. Being deciduous and dormant over the dry season helps them survive their harsh environment too.

Vitex acuminata is also found across Northern Australia favouring similar habitat to its cousin, while not as tasty it is worth trying, it has trifoliate leaves too but unlike Vitex.glabrata they are covered in fine hairs. Vitex is a member of the Lamiaceae family which also includes plants we use in everyday cooking, including basil and mint.

Although I no longer teach in the formal sense, I still get to use the skills I've learnt over the years when I work with many of the Indigenous ranger groups working on their traditional country in the Kimberley. One group the Bardi Jawi Oorany rangers have a nursery at Ardyloon (One Arm Point) where they are concentrating on growing bush food trees to plant out in people's gardens (especially elders) so they can gain easy access to the fruits they love. Happy to report the girls are having success with ingiirri as they call Vitex glabrata in Bardi.

As I've mentioned before much of what I know about bush food has been shared with me across many years by friends. Much of this valuable knowledge passed down over the millennia through spoken word is now captured in ethnobotanical guides produced by native title groups across the country. One I can highly recommend for those visiting Broome and available at Magabala Books in town is "Mayi Some bush fruits of the West Kimberley" by Merrilee Lands.

Robbie. Image: Phil Docherty.

   Related   

Not everything is black and white for Collingwood's Indigenous rounds preparations
Aliesha Newman’s strength on the football field is probably the acquired wisdom...
Andrew Mathieson 18 May 2024
Charles Maimarosia doesn't need to speak loudly – his music does the talking
Charles Maimarosia is a quiet man in person. Well dressed, with a large smile, h...
Dechlan Brennan 17 May 2024
Finalists announced for the 2024 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards
72 finalists have been announced for the 2024 Telstra National Aboriginal and To...
Giovanni Torre 17 May 2024
Mangarri man: Soapy Wattle
After one of the wettest wets in a century which caused extensive flooding resul...
Phil Docherty 17 May 2024

   Phil Docherty   

British Columbia Indian Chiefs celebrate "monumental" passing of legislation recognising Haida Aboriginal Title
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is celebrating the passing of the Ha...
Giovanni Torre 17 May 2024
Finalists announced for the 2024 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards
72 finalists have been announced for the 2024 Telstra National Aboriginal and To...
Giovanni Torre 17 May 2024
Mangarri man: Soapy Wattle
After one of the wettest wets in a century which caused extensive flooding resul...
Phil Docherty 17 May 2024
Mangarri man: Bush Tucker New Zealand Style
Kia ora from Aotearoa, (greetings from the Land of the Long White Cloud) where I...
Phil Docherty 3 Jan 2024