Acacia and Wattle

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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acacia and wattle Acacia spp. There are over 600 species, most of them native to Australia but others distributed throughout Africa, S. Asia, and the warmer parts of the Americas. They belong to the family Fabaceae (Leguminosae) whose members, including the familiar beans and peas, characteristically produce seeds in pods.

Many varieties are edible in part (for example, seeds, roots, gummy exudations) and have been exploited for this purpose by Australian Aborigines. Low (1989) explains that some acacias have several times the protein content of wheat; that the dried seeds were ground and baked as a form of damper (see bread varieties); and that the species called mulga (A. aneura) is so abundant in the Northern Territory that its seeds could feed a quarter of a million people in an average year. However, virtually all edible wattles were eaten only in desert regions; the exception being the coast wattle, A. sophorae, whose pods and peas were eaten in S. Australia and Tasmania.