Friday, March 5, 2010


Marsdenia viridiflora
I have been prowling around Irongate reserve again, and this week the doubah are in fruit. Don’t the seed follicles have a lovely peachy blush, where the sun hits them?
They have the obvious Marsdenia-style seam down one side, which shows you where they’re going to split when they’re ripe. This will release a mass of seeds, to float away in the wind on their silky “parachutes”.
These fruits are also sometimes called native pears, they are said to be edible if picked at this green stage, and roasted - apparently a gourmet treat, with a flavour like zucchini.
Those of you who don’t think “zucchini” and “gourmet treat” should fit into the same sentence may find this a surprising statement. I like them, myself, and would be curious to try doubah, but unfortunately I’m bound by my ethical principle that it is environmentally irresponsible to eat bush tucker from the wild.
(When Australians lived on bush tucker alone there were far fewer than a million of them. Nowadays we have a population of over 20 million, and less than 10% of our original bush. The seeds of our local native plants are needed for food by our beleaguered native fauna, and for reproduction by the plants themselves.)
Actually, I’m also a little doubtful about putting doubah into my mouth. This plant, like most Marsdenia species, produces copious amounts of white sap, and my native caution tells me that if not properly cooked - or perhaps if picked too late in the season - it might do me harm.
The name “viridiflora” tells us that its little flowers are bright green
Doubah plants are common at Irongate, and very hardy things. Below the ground they have 10cm potato-like tubers (one per plant) to which they can retreat in case of fire, heavy frost or searing drought. These tubers are also edible, but are apparently watery with an insipid, sweetish taste - certainly not worth killing a plant for!
Doubah are pretty plants, and would be suitable for growing as garden ornamentals - or perhaps in the vege garden, as a bushfood.

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