UQ Associate Professor Yasmina Sultanbawa and her peers at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Innovation (QAAFI) collaborate with Indigenous employment provider Karen Sheldon Group to develop the ultra-healthy bread using wattle seeds and Kakadu plums.
“The wattle seed bread is uniquely Australian, all-natural and very nutritious,” said Dr Sultanbawa.
“One wattle seed bread roll gives you the recommended daily intake of iron, zinc and dietary fiber – in fact, one roll contains two-and-a-half times the iron, six times the potassium and nearly five times the zinc of an average white-bread equivalent.”
Clean alternative to artificial additives
According to Dr Sultanbawa, ground wattle seed acts as a natural emulsifier to prolong shelf life, while powdered Kakadu plum is a natural bread improver.
“We had to identify which species of wattle seed, and how much of this seed would work in the bread, and we had to measure the nutritional benefits and storage potential.
“Some seeds contained a fair amount of fat and we thought they might develop some rancid notes, so we started eliminating based on aroma and flavor.
“Seed from Acacia coriacea, an indigenous wattle seed, performed the best,” she said.
The bread is now available on the menu at Qantas Club in Darwin.
Sarah Hickey, director of the Karen Sheldon Group, said the next step is to find a buyer to enable larger-scale production of the bread and provide benefits back to the community.
“It would be great to see an Aboriginal-owned and operated business make this bread as a parbaked product that could be frozen for at least 12 months and sold to remote communities so that they can benefit in terms of great consumer nutrition as well as the employment benefits,” said Hickey.
Dr Sultanbawa added it was rewarding to work on the project as it has significant community potential.
“Once the demand comes we can increase the supply, and then Indigenous communities can reap the social, cultural and economic benefits of developing social enterprises on their own land,” she said.
The project was funded by the Australian government’s Innovation Connections program.
There are almost 1,000 Acacia species, commonly called wattles, growing in Australia, however, only 120 species produce the edible wattle seeds that have been used as food by Aboriginal Australians for over 40,000 years, eaten either green and cooked, or dried, roasted and milled into a flour to make seed cakes.
The seeds have a hard husk that protects it during long periods of dormancy on the ground – up to 20 years in their natural environment – becoming a valuable source of protein and carbohydrate in times of drought.
Some edible species of wattle have been exported to Africa to assist drought-affected populations create a staple food source.
There has been commercial interest since the 1990s in harvesting and roasting wattle seed for sale, whole or ground. Some businesses extract the essence from the seed. However, the market is still regarded as ‘boutique’ and considerable development is required if wattle seed is to become a product of mainstream markets.
Described as the ‘unsung hero of the Australian Native Food industry, the roasted seeds have a distinct chocolate, coffee, hazelnut flavor, which lends itself to both savory and sweet applications. Today, there are a small number of commercial products featuring wattle seed, such as bread premixes, granola, chocolate and ice cream.
Wattle seed has a low glycaemic index, making it suitable for diabetics, providing a steady stream of sugars that do not produce sudden rises in blood glucose levels.
The wattle flower is the emblem of Australia, represented in the green and gold worn by Australian athletes.
Kakadu plums are the egg-shaped fruit of the Terminalia ferdinandiana tree, commonly found in open tropical woodlands.
Most notably, the fruit is purported to contain the highest vitamin C concentration of any food on Earth, with some examples having as high as 5,300mg/100g, which is 100 times more concentrated than oranges.
It also has superior antioxidant, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, and is low in calories and high in in dietary fiber.
Studies have found that regular consumption has a myriad of health benefits, from promoting digestion and aiding weight loss, to preventing acne and reducing wrinkles, to lowering the risk of cancer.
Commercial harvest of Kakadu plum commenced in the late 1990s. Today, the majority of production still stems from wild harvest. There are also a handful of small orchards.
Following a period of oversupply, the market is currently undersupplied with demand steadily increasing. Mintel research highlights that consumers want more natural products and less artificial ingredients, making the Kakadu plum an ideal fit.