Kakadu Plum. Mi Marrarrl. Gubinge. Whatever name you know it by, these unassuming little plums are big in flavour and mean a great deal to local indigenous communities.
Tell us a bit about Thamarrurr and the plum business:
The Thamarrurr Development Corporation Ltd is a not-for-profit corporate entity owned by members of the Wangka, Lirrga and Tjanpa peoples. The Mi Marrarri, or Kakadu Plum tree is of high significance to the Elders of Wadeye and it is only with their permission that the Mi Marrarl can be annually harvested. The Elders allow the pickers to continue their work if they “Do it the right way and don’t destroy the trees.”
The sustainability of the plum tree is incredibly important, to preserve them for the harvests of next year and the years to come, to preserve them for the next generation of harvesters, and the generation after that.
For those unfamiliar, what is a Kakadu Plum/Mi Marrarl and what does it taste like?
Terminalia ferdinandiana, also known as Mi Marrarrl in the Wadeye region is a species endemic to Northern Australia. It has the highest level of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) of any fruit in the world and also commercially important antioxidants. Due high levels of ascorbic acid they taste tangy and tart.
When are they in season?
The season can vary across the regions, but ours normally starts around April or Easter and can go on for a couple of months.
Tell us a bit about the growing and harvesting of the plum?
Mi Marrarl/Kakadu plums from our region are wild harvests, as they are an abundant and widespread savanna tree. We are looking at enrichment planting in the future.
What are some of the challenges of growing, harvesting, and selling Kakadu Plums?
The community has been involved in harvesting in terms of indigenous agribusiness development for almost a decade.
Macro natural factors such as low rainfall can significantly affect the volume of harvest in a season. We are also trying to better understand the impact of fire regimes on pollinators, flowering and yields.
The current demand has increased tremendously over the last three years and we are trying to meet the demand.
We had the largest harvest to date in 2019, totalling almost 12 tonnes of fruit, and this year we have harvested 4.5 tonnes to date – and the season will continue to for another couple of weeks. This season has been slower due to the very low rainfall.
We sell frozen plums, pureed and freeze dried powder, and most of our buyers are manufacturers of herbal supplements, medicines and cosmetics.
What does the business mean to the local community?
Most of the pickers are women; this is an industry lead and owned by the women of this region.
Last year the sum paid to the pickers amounted to $140,000, which is a plus for the local families and economy.
It is also a huge step forward for an activity that is based on traditional practice. The ladies have also been talking about creating our own value added products in the future.
What can you use Kakadu plum for in baking?
Almost anything. Various food products are in the market at present utilising bush foods, including Kakadu plum sauces, yoghurts, juices, and chocolates. They can certainly be used in baking cakes, brownies, energy balls and cookies. It’s entirely up to the creative minds to explore, experiment and create.