This extraordinary vine grows up Acacia trees in most parts of Arid Australia - from Kalgoorlie, to the far east coast of Australia. In fact, the name Kalgoorlie was derived from the local indigenous name for this plant - Kurgula. Around Alice Springs it is called Langkwe, and in the Flinders Ranges it is Myakka.
Marsdenia has a long twining stem, which often seems to appear from nowhere on it's host tree. For the untrained eye, the Marsdenia fruit often seems to be part of the tree or bush it is climbing on. The leaves vary from thin and spiky in the Flinders Ranges, to long and wide for most plants that grow around Alice Springs. The leaves broaden even more as you go northwards to the Gulf Country. When cultivated, they are grown on trellises, not unlike grape vines.
Marsdenia - or Bush Banana, as they have been called - are really the "Pantry of the Desert", as they have four different edible parts.
Firstly, the fruit, which is shaped a bit like a small smooth Avocado. It has a wonderful flavour not unlike crunchy snow peas and zucchini when small, but woody and fibrous when fully grown. The plant exudes a sweet,sticky white sap when fruit or leaves are plucked from the stem, and the fruit contains high levels of thiamine.
Secondly, the flowers are quite spectacular, with creamy succulent clusters of small cups which, when in full bloom, are full of nectar. The flowers by themselves are a real culinary treat and can be eaten straight from the vine, or used as a garnish.
Thirdly, the fresh young leaves are great in salads. Last, but not least, there is a yam or tuber in the ground at the base of the vine. The tuber carries the plant through droughts, just waiting for the next big rains. The vine also immediately responds after a bushfire.
The Marsdenia fruit are a wonderful green vegetable boiled or microwaved with butter, lemon juice and Mountain Pepper. They can also be sliced raw into salads, stir-fry or whole into casseroles. The Marsdenia flowers are very special as a garnish for salads or make a spectacular addition to fruit salad.
Uses: Salads, stir fries, casseroles, steamed as a vegetable
Similar to: Zucchini, Snow peas
Available to: Outback Pride Fresh food service