I didn't know anything about bush tomato (akudjura) until I started my Australian Gastronomy project at college. Thanks to the generosity of Australian celebrity chef Vic Cherikoff, the ground akudjura shown in the photo below is now part of my spice collection.
Bush tomato plant
Ripening bush tomato fruits
Ground dried bush tomato
Bush tomato is found in Central Australia, particularly Northern Territories, growing wild in areas with 150 to 300mm rainfall. The plant is now under cultivation in Central Australia.
Fruit. Green (unripe) fruits are toxic, as are the fruits of some related species.
Solanaceae (nightshade family).
The pale tan to dark brown berries have intense, earthy, caramel-like flavours and a slightly tangy acidity. The spice has great piquancy and pungency.
The name of the family derives from the Latin solanum "nightshade", but the further etymology of that word is unclear. It has been suggested it originates from the Latin verb solari "soothing" (presumably referring to alleged soothing pharmacological properties of some of the psychoactive species found in the family), but a more likely derivation is that the name comes from the perceived resemblance of the flowers of some family members to the sun and its rays.
Botanical species name centrale "central" refers to the location of the plant habitat in the central part of Australia. Bush (Australian meaning "wild area") derives from Middle English bush, busk or bosk, akin to Middle Dutch busch or bosch "bush" or "forest" and to Old High German busc and Old Swedish buske "bush". Tomato is an alteration (probably influenced by potato) of Old English tomate, from Nahuatl tomatl via Spanish.
There are several species of bush tomato, some of which are poisonous but appear identical to the edible varieties to all but the most experienced eye. The common edible species is solanum centrale, but some other species including s. chippendalei and s. ellipticum also produce edible fruit and are of interest to the native foods industry.
Bush tomato has formed a core part of the diet of native Australian Aboriginals for many thousands of years. Bush tomato is related to the garden tomato and is a fast growing shrub that fruits prolifically in the year after fire or good rains. The fruits are left on the bush until overripe and dried by the sun, when the tiny dried tomatoes are collected and further sun-dried before being ground and then laid out in the sun once again.
Bush tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and the early immigrant desert explorers and drovers prevented scurvy by cooking the fruits with their meat stews and mutton chops. Bush tomato is typically used in whole dried berry form to flavour stews and casseroles, while the ground dried berry, known as akudjura powder, blends well with coriander seed and wattleseed to flavour chicken, beef and full-flavoured fish such as salmon and tuna. Bush tomato is an essential ingredient of various chutneys and sauces.