"Palya," says Leon Althouse, welcoming us in the central desert language of Pitjantjatjara and picking a round red fruit off the tree in front of us. "This is a quandong, or desert peach," he explains. "The flesh is better than rhubarb pie and you can use the oily nut inside as a moisturiser." In the gardens of Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, our guide is teaching us how to gather and use native plants. The free daily garden tours are one of several activities in the resort's new Bush Tucker Journeys program. While native ingredients are becoming a fixture on restaurant menus - saltbush cakes at Billy Kwong, pâté with muntrie jam at Banksii - for the most part, indigenous produce remains inaccessible and mysterious to many Australians.
Bush tucker journey with Voyages Ayers Rock.
Voyages Ayers Rock Resort has teamed up with the local Anangu people to help educate guests about the diversity of edible and medicinal Australian plants during garden tours, hands-on cooking classes (don't miss wattleseed biscuit making) and in dishes prepared at the resort's 10 eateries. That might include pulled lamb with pepperberry at Arnguli, the restaurant at the newly renovated Desert Gardens Hotel, or emu sausages grilled DIY at Outback Pioneer BBQ.
Tali Wiru dinner near Uluru.
The highlight of the program is a dinner of native (and non-native) food under the stars. Watch the sun set over Uluru at a nightly dining experience on sand dunes called Tali Wiru ($345 a person) or overlooking British artist Bruce Munro's five-hectare, solar-powered light installation at A Night at Field of Light ($245 a person), until 31 March 2018.
Also part of the program are quarterly three-day festivals called Uluru Feastival Weekends. The first, on 18-20 August, was hosted by Bush Tucker Journeys ambassador and chef Mark Olive, who prepared outdoor dinners and conducted masterclasses with ingredients from bunya nuts to green ants. The dinners, also overlooking Uluru, will feature astronomical tours of the stars, which shine so much brighter in the heart of Australia.