Now is the time when many plants in the Gippsland forests develop their fruit. Some of these fruits are edible but many can be quite toxic if you don’t know what you are looking at. I had a short wander today in a large patch of wet forest at Sunny Creek near Trafalgar. This area has seasonally wet gullies and drier slopes and is quite dense in parts. The first thing I noticed was the abundance of Prickly Currant-bush Coprosma quadrifida fruits this year.
Some of these plants were so overloaded with fruit they seemed to be battling to keep upright. The fruits are sweet and slightly astringent but as they’re very small they aren’t much of a meal. We have several on our property in South Gippsland and before Christmas last year our daughter harvested a lot of the fruits and we made Christmas puddings with them.
Another prominent edible species is the Kangaroo Apple Solanum aviculare which at this time of the year is also loaded with fruit.
Many people are divided on their reactions to eating the fruit. I personally love the fruit and I think they taste a lot like a cross between an over-ripe tomato and gooseberry. Care must be taken with this species that you only eat the fruit which are dark red and fully ripe (slightly squishy) as they can be poisonous if too green. Another common species of Kangaroo Apple is Solanum laciniatum which has more oval-shaped fruits and only turns orange when fully ripe. This species is more common in mountainous areas.
Another species I came across in my short walk was the Native Rasberry Rubus parvifolius and this tended to grow on the fringe of the forest.
Many people I have talked to, especially farmers, regard this species as a pest (often called ‘bramble’) and spray them out as they would with the introduced Blackberry. I cringe when I’m driving along roads and see that an area of native raspberry has been sprayed out. As with the Prickly Currant-bush you need a lot for a meal because they are small but they are very sweet and similar in taste to the European raspberry. These plants tend to grow in a variety of open habitats.
Elderberry Panax Polyscias sambucifolia is another species with edible fruit.
This tall wispy shrub is found in a variety of forest habitats and the fruit remind me of prawn eyes in their appearance. They are edible when a pale, steely-blue/mauve colour and are quite succulent.
One species common on the forest floor is the Native Elderberry Sambuccus gaudichaudiana.
Most of the plants I found had finished flowering but the one in the photo was found in a clearing and in full fruit set. These white berries are sweet and delicious and as with the introduced elderberry the fruits can be used to make wine.
I threw this last one in, even though they don’t have edible fruits. Stinging Nettle Urtica incisa is a native species but can be the bane of the bushwalker with it’s painful sting. They have a variety of uses from treating sprains and rheumatism to being a health benefit when the leaves are boiled and made into a tea.
It must be stressed that any fruits you eat must be identified correctly as an edible species.