Some Tasty Treats From The Bush At Mangowine

Clyde Adams – Perth Western Australia 2001

When I was a child there were many attractions in the bush adjacent to Mangowine. Yes, they are still there today, but by no means as prolific.

Quandongs are found in many parts of the State, and we certainly had our share. Is there a tastier jam than that made from quandongs? Certainly not to my mind. When Margaret Adams (Charlie’s wife) gave me a jar of it in the late 1990s I felt that heaven had arrived ahead of time.

But the berries we know as ‘Nimbo’ and ‘Cubbo’ (Aboriginal names no doubt) are unique. Nimboes grow on small prickly bushes and, when ripe, are small, soft and sweet to eat. Inside there is a hard seed which we were instructed not to swallow because ‘It can give you appendicitis’. Because it was much easier to just chew, suck and swallow, we ignored that advice………and I know of no-one in the family who ever needed an appendix operation.

The cubbo trees have leaves rather like those of the sandalwood, but a lighter green. Cubboes, when ripe are small berries with a firm green skin surrounding a mass of soft white flesh. Again they have a hard seed inside, very like the nimbo seed, and again we just bit off the skin and swallowed the rest. I love the rare occasions today when I get a few in season. They are as sweet as ever.

Both cubbo and nimbo plants were prolific only in that region. I have, however, found nimboes as far away as Yelbeni.

Another bush product we loved was the occasional egg salvaged from a mallee hen’s nest. (To some, mallee hens are known as ‘brush turkeys’). Each nest, used year after year by more than one mother bird, consists of a huge dirt pile surrounding a deep hole filled with soil and rotting grass, twigs and leaves. They lay their eggs deep down, and scratch that rotting mix back in, ensuring the warmth needed to hatch the eggs.

The chickens, when hatched, scratch their way to the surface and, by all accounts, live independently from the start. No doubt eagles, foxes and other predators get to prey on them, but many survive to start over again.

Yes, we were predators too, for most years we would dig down in a nest or two to get some of the eggs. However, our father had strict rules. If there were five or more eggs, we could take two, otherwise we were to leave them all. Also, as the egg matures the pink outer surface turns white. Any sign of white, and we knew it was not fresh enough for eating.

Mallee hen eggs are huge… about three times the size of a normal hen egg. Fry one, and it will probably fill the bottom of the pan. I remember them as really tasty.

Wildflowers of many kinds were always prolific in that nearby bush. Many I have never seen elsewhere, such as the creeper we called ‘Red Runner’. All the common orchids still appear each spring, but I recall others I’ve never seen elsewhere. One was similar in size and shape to the small ‘blue orchid’, but with an incredible gold colour. (No, I don’t mean the small yellow one).

Yes, some have disappeared, but a visit to Mangowine in the early spring should include a trek through the bush. BUT DON’T PICK THE FLOWERS!