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After Decades of Being Ignored, a Nut From 20-Pound Pine Cones Is Back on Australian Menus

Aboriginal groups once traveled long distances to celebrate its harvest.

Aboriginal artist Leeton Lee grew up honing his survival skills in the Australian bush, crafting shelters from the bark of fallen logs, carving spears out of tree branches, and snacking on the tart berries of lilly pilly bushes. But it wasn’t until he spent time, as an adult, with one of the elders of Cherbourg, an Aboriginal community in Queensland, that he had his first bunya nut.

“I couldn’t believe it’s something I sort of missed along the way,” he says, “and that a lot of other people had missed, too.”

Bunya trees are the stuff of legend. Roaming dinosaurs likely snacked on their flowering pines, and their harvest has been an Aboriginal food source for centuries. Native to Queensland—where they thrive in the state’s wet, tropical soils—the bunya pine can grow to more than 150 feet with a trunk more than four feet in diameter. The tree’s immense dome-shaped crown is decidedly impressive, and every three to four years, this towering evergreen produces pine cones the shape of an egg and the size of a football that can weigh as much as 22 pounds. When a bunya pine barrels off a tree, it typically drops intact: a spiky pod filled with anywhere from 30 to 100 husk-covered nuts.

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Tags: #aborigines, #australia, #food, #indigenouspeoples
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