Explainers

What is saltbush?

This native shrub, once used as animal fodder, has found a new lease on life at the table, proving its worth in salads, roasts and stir-fries.

By Emma Knowles
Coastal saltbush
Coastal saltbush

WHAT IS SALTBUSH?
In Australia saltbush typically refers to an edible blue-grey shrub, but there are about 60 species in this country alone; grey saltbush, a coastal variety with slender leaves, and old man saltbush, an inland plant with flatter, wider leaves, are the most commonly eaten. Indigenous people were known to eat the fruits from ruby saltbush and to grind and bake other varieties of saltbush seeds, but the leaves, which were an important vegetable for early colonists, are what the plant is prized for now.

HOW DO YOU COOK WITH SALTBUSH?
Saltbush leaves are fleshy with a salty, herbal flavour, and are very versatile. Use fresh leaves in salads or as a bed for roasting meats (it's great with lamb) or fish, toss them into stir-fries, dip them in batter and fry them, or use the dried leaves as a seasoning; ground dried leaves can be a substitute for salt.

WHERE CAN I GET IT?
Native-food specialists sell dried saltbush online, but fresh saltbush, which is much tastier, is increasingly available from specialist greengrocers and growers' markets.

Stir-fried saltbush

Heat 50ml peanut oil in a wok until shimmering, add 200gm saltbush leaves, 20gm julienned ginger, 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves and 1 thinly sliced long red chilli. Stir-fry until wilted and fragrant (2-3 minutes), add 2 tbsp soy sauce and 70ml chicken or vegetable stock, stir-fry until hot (1 minute) and serve.

You could also try Kylie Kwong's stir-fried Australian native greens, pictured above.

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  • Author: Emma Knowles