John Wrench is a pharmacist, bush food & indigenous species consultant, lecturer and propagator and conducts workshops and guided walks by arrangement. He is also a poet, author and wildlife photographer. Ph: 07 3256 3310
It is interesting to soak heads of nectar-rich blossoms in water in order to produce a sweet drink. The results are often disappointing, the liquid proving to have too little sugar and too many insects and bits of plant debris. Some quite delectable fruit drinks, however, can be made by boiling with sugar some of the well-known jam species, and several others not widely known as useful fruits. Most of the syzygium species (Lillypilly group) can be used for jams, desserts and fruit drinks, especially the most famous, the riberry (Syzygium luehmannii) which produces a brilliant red-coloured drink, with a sharp taste and aromatic flavour.
A quite new preparation, introduced by the author, is based on the ripe fruits of the Cooloon (Elaeocarpus grandis) and other species of Elaeocarpus. The shallow layer of greenish flesh under the bright blue skin, and investing the large rugose seed, contains sugar, acid, some interesting tannins, and some intriguing flavour principles. If the fruits are boiled whole with sugar, a pale green syrup is produced, recalling granny smith apples and clove. If the fruits are stripped of flesh (by fingers or grater, etc.) and the whole mixture is boiled with sugar, the resulting syrup is coloured reddish-brown, and the flavour recalls cooked guava as well. Syrup (both kinds) plus cold water or soda water etc, produces a wonderfully refreshing sharp-tasting drink.
Rainforest Fruit Drink
A delightfully refreshing, aromatic drink can be made by boiling a mixture of rainforest fruits with sugar and water at the rate of about one kg. of fruit and 500g. of sugar to four litres of water. Challenge – find more than eight (8) species to use. It is important to include a good proportion of riberry for colour, flavour and acidity, but as many colourful, palatable fruits as possible will enhance the process. Try to include some Diploglottis sp. Store the drink in a large plastic bottle (or several) with the fruit remaining.
As the resultant drink is not preservatised and does not contain the 87.5% sugar of a syrup product to preserve by osmotic pressure, it must be stored in a refrigerator and used within a week or so. On the other hand, freezing smaller bottles of the decanted solution will guarantee a protracted enjoyment of this delight.
The rainforest drink has been served to the public on numerous occasions since 1997, producing a very favourable (near ecstatic) response each time. (Children included!).
Whether or not the fruits are in season, you will be able to try this drink, made from frozen stock held in the freezer for this kind of need. N.B. Save the solids for use in other ways. Freeze for long storage.
Notes on Diploglottis spp.
As the result of fairly widespread cultivation, it is possible to use the fruits of several species of Diploglottis, the so-called ‘native tamarinds: (The true Asian tamarinds are not related, belonging to a different family of plants).
Genus Diploglottis Family Sapindaceae (The great rainforest family)
The following species are grown commercially or in public and private gardens in southeast Queensland:
D. campbelli, D. cunninghamii, D.dyphyllostegia, D. smithii.
D. campbellii is rare and endangered in the wild, but quite widely cultivated. A good specimen may be observed in the BCC City Botanic Gardens near the kiosk. The fruits of Diploglottis are roundish capsules, some up to seven (7) cm. across containing two or three large seeds invested with a fleshy aril or coating. This flesh is orange to red in colour, acidulous (+++) and juicy, making it an ideal component of fruit drinks, jams, desserts. etc.
All references in other articles to the uses of rainforest fruit may be amended to include Diploglottis sp.