Everyone who has read my stuff in the past knows that I'm an avid forager and love to write about topics in episodic series. This one's no different, I'll be sharing what I know about South Aussie bush tucker and bush medicine over the next couple of months so that you can be ready for foraging season!
Lets get into it with Boobiala.
Common name: Boobiala, Native Juniper, Blueberry Tree
Taxonomic name: Myoporum insulare
Habitat: Coast, lots of sand
Form: Prostrate to small tree up to 6 metres
Flowering Time: Late Winter to Spring
Ngarrindjeri name: Karangki
Note: For some reason, it’s illegal to collect the fruit in some parts of Australia, but not down this way. I guess we just do it better in SA!
Boobiala (Myoporum insulare) shows its flowers from roughly August to October. The flowers have 5 petals and have white with purple spots. They grow, on short stems, in the angle where leaf and stem meet. These flowers become fleshy, purple berries. It has thick, fleshy leaves with a vein in the middle and a few teeth. It is a coastal plant, loving sandy areas such as dunes. It has thick, smooth leaves and grows to about 6 metres.
Boobiala has masses of astringent purple berries in Summer. I know a place where there’s over a kilometre of then, unbroken, along a roadside, all in fruit at once, at the right time of year. The berries are quite astringent and can be quite bitter or even salty. They remind me of turpentine, but some folks love them and I’m looking forward to a jam made from them this year.
Another name for this tree is ‘Native Juniper’, as the taste of the berries is reminiscent of that of Juniper. Because of this, they are being used to make Australian Gin by some enterprising folks. There is also some talk of an essential oil being made from the berries because of their bitter oil content.
If I’m out foraging and feel a sniffle coming on and there’s no Black Anther Flax Lily around, I’ll try for a handful of Boobiala berries if the time of year is right. There’s no history of this that I’ve been told, just tried it myself once and it worked, so I do it every time now. Maybe the astringency acts to tone up the membranes in my mouth and respiratory tract?
There is a relative that's becoming beloved by Council gardeners (and home folks too!). Myoprum parvifolium or 'Creeping Boobiala' also has edible berries but those that I've sampled lack the astringency of those from their upright cousin.