It is a complete immersion of the senses as you walk through the entry of Brigid Corcoron’s Saltbush Kitchen store in Buninyong.
A cellar with an entry at the back of the town’s main shops may seem an unusual and hidden location for a store. But once found, the transformed setting makes complete sense.
Gum leaves and native style art marks the entry to the Australian bush foods store, while tanbark and leaves line the ground.
‘Can you smell the saltbush?’, writing on the side wall asks.
Walking further into the cellar the temperature drops. Birds chirp in the background and softly lit native planes line the entry ramp, before opening up to a brightly lit store.
Owner Brigid Corcoron said the immersive experience was key to broaden the reach of her native food products through engagement in smell and taste.
“Customers hit that first room and it sets them on the way to the Australian bush,” she said.
Given how beautiful they were, I couldn’t understand why we weren’t using them regularly and that maybe I could help change that.Brigid Corcoron, Saltbush Kitchen
Although the Buninyong store has only been open for three weeks, Ms Corcoron’s passion for Australian bush foods developed more than six years ago when she realised they were so rarely used.
Her original plan was to open a spice store, but Australian bush foods soon took over her business model after time spent researching and cooking with them.
“Given how beautiful they were, I couldn’t understand why we weren’t using them regularly and that maybe I could help change that,” she said.
“It wasn’t anything profound it was missing in our food, it was just obvious. Some of that was to do with access, but a lot of it is to do with information and knowledge. But I have seen a massive shift in the industry in the past seven years. Masterchef has bush foods on all the time now and you will regularly see products where the hero may not be a bush food but it is certainly featuring in products in the supermarket.”
Now Ms Corcoron wants to help more people use bush foods in their cooking at home.
“It is so important as Australians that we know this is the food of the country we are from,” she said.
“It’s a fantastic recognition of Aboriginal Australia and the contribution historically and today. And food is such a great link when we are looking at that. Food has a lot to do with the identity of who we are as Australians when we look at other cultures and other countries.”
Saltbush Kitchen produces a line of syrups, salts and spices showcasing Australian bush foods like pepperberry, lemon myrtle, strawberry gum, wattleseed and saltbush.
Ms Corcoron formerly ran a cafe from the old MADE building.
She said the new Buninyong store has received great interest, which she partly attributes to a renewed interest in food provenance.
“I think food is very fashionable and native food has hit a food trend... But also I think generally in Australia there has been a shift in looking at how we eat, how we farm and what foods we grow,” she said.
“There is a bigger conversation happening out there about what we can be as a country and how we can grow our food in a sustainable way.
“I have farmers chat with me about some of the crops they could grow to have bush foods. There is a demand in supply. The farmers that are out there probably can’t supply to the current demand.”
Ms Corcoron has been working with the Ballarat Tech School to run programs based on innovation in Australian food, with a focus on bush foods.
“Very few of the students have heard of bush foods and all of them leave with a whole new understanding of what Australian food is with an attitude that we should be eating these,” she said.
Introduction to native foods formed the first part of the program, before students were challenged to innovate a new bush food product.
Students made a kangaroo burger with a bush spice bun and bush spice mayonnaise as part of a bush food fast food restaurant challenge.
“The students were sitting around at the end saying they would buy this over a regular hamburger,” Ms Corcoron said.
Ms Corcoron said it was a matter of time before native bush foods became a notable part of Australian food culture.
The Saltbush Kitchen pop-up store will be open Thursday to Sunday until Christmas.
Visit saltbushkitchen.com.au/ for details.
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