Bush Tomato, also known as Kutjera, Kampurarpa, Akatjurra is a small desert plant approximately 30cm in height, with grey to bronze leaves and attractive mauve/blue flowers. Although it naturally occurs throughout the central deserts of Northern Territory and South Australia, it is being cultivated in regions where dry conditions prevail.
Part of the tomato family (which includes potatoes and capsicums), there are over 100 species of Solanums (Wild Tomatoes) in Australia. However, only six are known to be edible, and Kutjera – Desert Raisins – are the most well known and certainly the most consumed species of the “bush tomatoes”.
The plants grow quickly after summer rains, mainly from dormant root stock which can last for many years between favourable seasons. The plant also responds and grows rapidly after soil disturbance (along roadsides) or after bushfires.
Bush Tomato has been a staple food of the indigenous desert dwellers of Central Australia for many thousands of years. A rich source of minerals, particularly potassium, they are also high in vitamin C. The traditional harvesting method is to collect the sun dried fruits of the small bush in the autumn and winter months. In the dried form, Bush Tomato can be stored for several years. Rich in Vitamin C, it is about the size of a small grape and is considered “ripe” when it has dried on the bush and resembles a raisin.
Traditionally the dried fruits are collected from the small bushes in late Autumn and early Winter. In the wild they fruit for only two months. These days they are grown commercially by Aboriginal communities in the deserts of central Australia. Using irrigation, they have extended the fruiting season to eight months
Bush Tomato has a strong sun dried tomato, caramel and tamarillo flavour and aroma which is just delicious in recipes with tomato, cheese or eggs. Also goes well with Salmon and stronger flavoured white or game meats. Can be used as a Dukka or crusting for meats.
Go easy when adding Ground Bush Tomato to a recipe -too much and it’s bitter. The right amount and it is superb
The roots of this plant are used by our traditional people to treat toothache. The roots are baked in ash and then peeled and placed on the aching tooth. It is also an important bushfood, but can act as a laxative if too many are eaten.
There are several warnings associated with this fruit. Green fruit contains the toxin solanine and only fully ripened fruit should be eaten. There are several related species which look like Solanum centrale but the fruit remains toxic even after ripening.
This plant requires smoke treatment before it will germinate. Smoke treatment is the simple process of covering the sown seed with smoked vermiculite and watering in.