WHEN most people think of traditional Aussie bush tucker, their mind immediately heads towards freshly unearthed grubs or the odd kangaroo steak, but one woman from Mt Gravatt in south-east Queensland is breaking the mould with a delicious revelation.
Anne Marie Carter has been working closely with CSIRO scientists and professional chocolatiers to come up with a new ways to enjoy our native bush food and has developed the Rainforest Pearl, a chocolate-covered fruit burst that will have you heading back for more.
"I've been using dried riberries from lilly-pilly trees to make the chocolates for the past seven years," Anne Marie said.
"They're easily grown and readily available - there are quite a few orchards in the northern parts of NSW and behind the Sunshine Coast.
"The native food industry in this country is really an untapped market for consumers."
Anne Marie said it was disappointing to note more than 6000 edible native species had been identified but to only see a handful of those used on a commercial scale.
"People think Australian bush food is very basic with kangaroo, crocodile and a handful of greens, but there are chefs doing some amazing things - we just need to get the message across to the average person.
"By putting our native food into products they already have an affiliation with, we can change the perception."
Anne Marie's love of bush tucker began more than 20 years ago when she returned from travelling around Europe.
"It was coming up to Christmas so I decided to make a few plum puddings and head down to the South Bank markets with them on Friday night to earn some extra money - and they just took off."
Anne Marie decided to update the old-fashioned pudding recipe and incorporate a few native ingredients, including lemon myrtle.
"I thought, 'This will be different; we can do this' and so I ended up developing this Australian bush pudding and it's gained a real following over the years."
The Aussie entrepreneur said there was constant interest from international companies regarding native Australian bush food due to its high nutrient values.
"The riberry in particular has extremely high levels of vitamin C - more than many other imported fruits - and I really believe we should be focusing our energy into doing more research on foods we can grow here."
With its sweet, cinnamon flavour, the small pink berry is just one of the many avenues which Anne Marie hopes to explore in educating consumers.
"Who's to know what else is out there that has the potential for medicinal and food uses?
"Our native plants have had thousands of years to adapt to this climate and are very resilient to pests and diseases, and we're saving on emissions by not importing."
Setting out to distribute small portions of the Rainforest Pearls was a daunting task for Anne Marie, but she soon learned that where there was a will, there was a way.
"I just got on the phone and contacted a fellow who works with drying fruit and a chocolatier, and they were both a bit sceptical at first but willing to give it a go," Anne Marie said.
"I sent the riberries off and they came back to me with their ideas.
"And that's where it's great for little businesses because you call someone and, even though they might usually work with massive quantities, they're willing to see the potential of your idea, so I'm glad that people have been so innovative and helpful."
Currently selling her Australian bush pudding and Rainforest Pearls online and through a number of retailers in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, Anne Marie said she would continue to pave the way for the future of the Australian bush-food industry.
"I'm eternally grateful to people who like strange ideas."
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