This popularised the idea that Australia really was a nation of great wealth in foodstuffs, if only one knew how to get to it and what selections there were. Eat the wrong thing and you could end up very ill or even dead.
Australia's indigenous people knew all these things from their previous generations who taught them orally from one generation to the next down through the centuries. They would not have survived here for generations upon generations if they had not learnt these lessons well!
Tourists visiting Alice Springs will see for themselves a number of interesting and fascinating issues associated with bush tucker.
There are a number of tourist sites which specialise in the type of bush tucker that is found in desert areas. My wife Delma and I visited some of these sites recently, and reports that they are all worth visiting.
In particular, information about desert living – detailing where water can be found, what foods are more plentiful in what seasons, how quickly the desert blossoms with lots of rain and just as quickly, how it returns to its dry state.
Knowledgeable guides take the visitors through the various displays and walks, explaining how the climate seasons affect the bush tucker and what foods are edible and easy to find, and also pointing out attractive items such as those melons seen from the side of the road, that one should not eat upon pain of death.
There are also laboratories of the CSIRO ( Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) based in Alice Springs. Two of these facilities are the Desert Knowledge Precinct and the Arid Zone Research Institute. One of the tasks of the scientists who work here is to analyse Australian food items used traditionally by Aborigines of the area, to ascertain both their nutritional value and any medicinal properties they may have.
The Aboriginal knowledge of medicinal benefits certain plants and foods possess for specific ailments is profound and the scientific analysis of these have shown that their knowledge was remarkable. It is an entirely different situation to that of marketing a bush tucker product.
This work is ongoing, and follows food and medicinal analysis of 'bush foods' in other parts of Australia, some of it by CSIRO and some by University researchers, since the 1960s.
Alice Springs Desert Park is also informative, and provides each visitor with an audio guide of the park. The commentary is very clear and the information useful, covering a variety of habitats managed within the park such as: the Woodlands; Hunting Grounds; Sand Country, and Desert Rivers. There are also guides to show the visitor a bird theatre, a nocturnal house and a presentation about Aboriginal traditional hunting practices.
What is made clear by these presentations, is that the desert is actually a place of plenty, as long as one knows where to look. It is a land of rich harvest in terms of being sustainable for humans and the central focus is to maintain these lands in their natural habitat to retains these precious bush tucker foods - and more importantly - the water holes.
Christianity has a great deal of say about sustaining the food supply and water knowledge. The Holy Land is replete with deserts, and the peoples of the Middle East at that time needed to be just as conversant with 'desert living' as our own indigenous people were before Europeans arrived. Water wells were an important meeting place in the world of the Bible.
One of the more well known stories is when Jesus met with the woman of Samaria at a water well in John 4, where Jesus made that universal statement that worship of the Lord can be enjoyed anywhere, not just in one designated place.