Growing and Eating Wattle Seed

Recently a series of wattle seed workshops have been held throughout the country examining the potential of 24 species that provide both nutritious seeds and the opportunity to optimise the use of these perennial legumes in regenerative agriculture. Those present included commercial wattle seed producers; those looking to enter into production and use of wattle seed on both a large and domestic scale; seed collectors; researchers; scientists, and media members.

Presenters

Peter Cunningham from Wattle Seeds Australia (www.wattleseeds.com.au)

has spent many years introducing wattle seed into Sahelian and arid zones of Ethiopia where he found blending 25% wattle seed with traditional cereals significantly boosted the protein diet of local people. Peter has been working with Australian Native Food and Botanicals (ANFAB) on a two-year research project aimed at developing commercial wattle seed plantations in Australia. He spoke on current species under investigation and their potential.

Anh Phan and Oladipoupo Adiamo from Queensland University outlined their research into the nutritional analysis and properties of the thirteen most widely planted commercial species. Reliable laboratory testing for toxins and nutrients is necessary before wattle seed can be approved as a commercial food (still pending). Currently, only ‘spice’ quantities can legally be used as a food flavouring. They spoke of the processing/cooking techniques required to denature anti-nutrients found in the seed and potential opportunities for use of the seed in products including bread, cookies, beverages, fruits, and as extracts. They also discussed issues associated with aroma, flavour and taste.

A retired commercial banker, marketing expert and now wattle seed producer Matthew Koop, outlined his experiences in producing commercial quantities of wattle seed; set up costs; yield expectations; marketing and potential returns. Matthew Koop spoke on the importance of matching species with location and site as well as techniques for harvesting.

Growth and lifespan of wattles in commercial production varies between species. Examples include the fast-growing dominantly planted Acacia longifolia ssp. longifolia which can be expected to produce a harvest within 2-3 years, but takes more maintenance and is shorter lived (15 years). It has significantly overtaken the much- heralded Acacia victoriae which produces a harvest in 4-5 years, but has a longer lifespan (30 years).

It is clear there is much more research required before wattle seed can be established as a major food industry here in Australia. Growing wattle seed seems relatively straight-forward, but coordinating production and processing, finding markets and tackling many regulatory hurdles are yet to be overcome.

Annette and Grant McFarlane attended the Accelerating Wattle Seed Workshop – Establishing a Wattle Seed Orchard, funded by AgriFutures and Australian Native Food and Botanicals (ANFAB) held at Queensland University at Indooroopilly in Brisbane on Friday 23rd June.

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