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Bush Tomato/Bush Raisin

Bush Food / Bush Tucker - Central Australia

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Flora of Central Australia

Among the Solanum genus goup of plants are the species often referred to as ‘bush tomato’ or ‘bush raisin’.

In Central Australia and the Northern Territory, the genus Solanum that include the bush tomato are usually found as small shrubs varying from 30 cm to about 1 metre in height. With a covering of hairs, the star-shaped flowers are mostly in clusters, often purple and have the yellow anthers projecting from the centre of each flower. The fruit look like small tomatoes of about 0.5 cm to 3 cm in diameter. The fleshy fruit vary in colour and may be green, yellow, brown, red or black.

Care should be taken when identifying the bush tomato in the wild as there are a number of closely related species, that are similar in appearance, but are toxic. In addition, there can be variation to the bush tomato, within the same species, the variation usually obvious in the leaves, making it appear to be different plants, even when they are sown in the same patch.

The fruit of the bush tomato are round, approximately 10-20 mm in diameter and turn from green to yellow when ripe. When they are dried they look like raisins. Fruit ripening on the bush dry to resemble a raisin.


Desert Raisin (S. centrale)

The Bush Tomato, also known as the Desert raisin and Akudjurra (Solanum centrale), is a bush tucker that has gained popularity in western cuisine. Although there are several edible species of Solanum found in the Central Australia region, Solanum centrale is the most popular and considered favourable for cultivation to satisfy western demands. The plant has a more star-shaped flower, whilst the leaves can vary slightly from plant to plant in shape, colour and size. The leaves can be pale green or greyish, and are finely furry, with a velvety feel.

Native Tomato (Solanum ellipticum)

Also known as potato bush, wild gooseberry, native tomato is widespread throughout Central Australia, providing an abundance of fruit when conditions are suitable. Its flower is less star-shape then that of the S. centrale, whilst the stems has spiny hairs. The fruit is green with purplish stripes, becoming pale yellow when ripe. Also features significantly in Aboriginal mythology and culture.

Wild Tomato (Solanum orbiculatum subsp.orbiculatum)

Wild tomato occurs in deep red sand growing with spinifex. It is an important ‘bush tucker’ source for local indigenous people, and can be seen depicted in many Aboriginal artwork. A soft looking shurb with yellow-green more rounded leaves, that often have a rusty colouration when the plant is young. The fruit is said to be slightly more bitter than S. centrale.

There are many Solanum species that resemble Solanum centrale, and only some of them produce edible fruit. Some closely related species produce fruit that are toxic.

The unripe fruit contains the toxin solanine (the same as that found in green potatoes) and must be fully ripened before consumption.

S. sturtianum is poisonous and can usually be recognised by the yellow or black dry brittle fruits.
Extreme care must be taken when identifying edible food plants and those used in bush medicine. Some bush foods are only edible at different stages of the plant cycle, or when treated appropriately. Bush medicine should only be used under the guidance of a qualified physician. Information here is only provided for research. You should always seek experts in the field to confirm the identification of the plant and whether they are edible or appropriate.

Flora Images — Bush Tomato

Bush Food Plants in Central Australia
Bush Tomato (Solanum centrale)

Bush Tomato / Bush Raisin (Solanum centrale) - Wildflowers of Central Australia.

Native Tomato (Solanum ellipticum)

Native Tomato (Solanum ellipticum) - Bush Tucker of Central Australi.

Native Tomato (Solanum ellipticum) - Bush Tucker of Central Australi.

Wild Tomato (Solanum orbiculatum subsp.orbiculatum)

Wild Tomato (Solanum orbiculatum subsp.orbiculatum)

Wild Tomato (Solanum orbiculatum subsp.orbiculatum)

More information and images can be seen in the Flora section on the genus Solanum.
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