Facts about Bunya Nuts ~ Araucaria bidwillii

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Bunya nuts Quick Facts
Name: Bunya nuts
Scientific Name: Araucaria bidwillii
Origin South-east Queensland Australia and two small disjunct populations in north eastern Queensland's
Colors Dark green
Shapes Ovoid-sub globose, 30 cm (12 in) long, 20 cm (8 in) wide, weighing up to 20 kg (44 lbs.)
Taste Mild, slightly sweet, nutty flavor similar to almond meal
Araucaria bidwillii, commonly known as the bunya pine and sometimes referred to as the false monkey puzzle tree, is a large evergreen coniferous tree in the plant family Araucariaceae. The plant is native to south-east Queensland Australia and two small disjunct populations in north eastern Queensland’s World Heritage listed Wet Tropics. It has been distributed between Gympie and the Bunya Mountain on the northeastern side of Dalby, Mt. Lewis and Cunnabullen falls north of Queensland. Other places where the Bunya trees are found include parts of Argentina, Chile, New Caledonia, Southern Brazil, New Guinea and Norfolk Island. Bunya-bunya (Aust.), Bunya nut, Bunya pine, Monkey puzzle tree, Queensland pine, Bunya pine, Moreton-bay-pine, Bunya bunya, Bunya, bunya-bunya tree and false monkey-puzzle tree are few of the popular common names of the plant.

The genus name Araucaria refers to the province of Arauco in Chile, where other members of this genus are native. The species name is in honor of J.C. Bidwill (1815-1853), a botanical explorer. The fossilized trees of the Petrified Forest in Northern Arizona are close relatives to this plant. The bunya pine is considered as the last surviving species of the Section Bunya of the genus Araucaria. This section was diverse and widespread during the Mesozoic with some species having cone morphology similar to A. bidwillii, which appeared during the Jurassic. Fossils of Section Bunya are found in South America and Europe. The scientific name honors the botanist John Carne Bidwill, who came across it in 1842 and sent the first specimens to Sir William Hooker in the following year.

Bunya Nuts Facts

Name Bunya nuts
Scientific Name Araucaria bidwillii
Native South-east Queensland Australia and two small disjunct populations in north eastern Queensland’s World Heritage listed Wet Tropics. It has been scattered between Gympie and the Bunya Mountain on the northeastern side of Dalby, Mt. Lewis and Cunnabullen falls north of Queensland. Other places where the Bunya trees are found include parts of Argentina, Chile, New Caledonia, Southern Brazil, New Guinea and Norfolk Island
Common Names Bunya-bunya, Bunya nut, Bunya pine, Monkey puzzle tree, Queensland pine, Bunya pine, Moreton-bay-pine, Bunya bunya, Bunya, bunya-bunya tree, false monkey-puzzle tree
Name in Other Languages Arabic: Arukaria biduilia (أروكاريا بدويلية)
Catalan: Araucària d’Austràlia, Pi de Bunya
Chinese: Da ye nan yang shan (大叶南洋杉), Ōba nan’yōsugi (大葉南洋杉), Kuo ye nan yang shan (闊葉南洋杉), Guǎng yè nányáng shān (廣葉南洋杉)
Dutch: Bunya-bunya
English:  Bunya-bunya, Bunya nut, Bunya pine, Monkey puzzle tree, Queensland pine, Bunya pine, Moreton-bay-pine, Bunya bunya, Bunya, bunya-bunya tree, false monkey-puzzle tree
Esperanto: Kvinslanda araŭkario
Finnish: Queenslandinaraukaria
French: Araucaria d’Australie, pin Bunya, araucaria de Bidwill, bunya-bunya, pin bunya
German: Queensland-Araukarie, Bunya-Bunya-Baum, Bunya Schmucktanne
Hungarian: Bunya bunya délfenyő, Ausztráliai araucaria
Italian: Araucaria di Bidwill, pino Bunya
Japanese: Bunyabunya (ブンヤブンヤ),  Hiroha nonanyou sugi (ヒロハノナンヨウスギ)
Persian: کاج بونیا
Polish:  Araukaria australijska, Araukaria Bidwilla
Portuguese: Araucária-da-Austrália, bunia-bunia, Araucária, Bunya-bunya, Pinheiro-australiano, Pinheiro-bunya-bunya, araucária-da-queenslándia, pinheiro-bunia
Russian: Araukariia Bidvilla (Араукария Бидвилла), buniya-buniya  (буния-буния)
Spanish:  Araucaria australiana, Pino bunya, araucaria de Bidwill, pino de Bunya
Swedish: Bunya-bunyaträd
Thai:  S̄n h̄nām (สนหนาม)
Ukrainian: Araukariya Bidvilla (Араукарія Бідвілла)
Plant Growth Habit Large, evergreen, broadleaf, coniferous tree
Growing Climates Grows in moist valley floors, upper slopes, ridgetops, rich volcanic soils in moist valleys at low elevations near the coast. Normally found as an emergent tree over tropical rainforest, in humid areas where mists are frequent
Soil Favorable in loamy soils which are well drained
Plant Size 45 meters (about 148 feet), a diameter of 1.5 meters (around 4 feet), and a spread of 15 meters (49 feet)
Trunk Thick and sturdy trunk is very straight and is brown to black in color. The trunk is often said to resemble the leg of an elephant or a dinosaur in appearance
Bark Varies between dark brown to black. The thickness of the bark ranges from 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) and deeply furrowed on mature trees
Leaf Up to 7 cm (3 in) long, narrow, lance-shaped on young trees, changing to triangular-shaped on older branches
Cone Shape & Size Ovoid-sub globose, 30 cm (12 in) long, 20 cm (8 in) wide, weighing up to 20 kg (44 lbs.)
Cone Color Dark green
Cone Weight Up to 10 kilograms
Seed About 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, elongate-elliptic, wingless and encased in a thin, tough, buff-colored protective shell
Propagation By seed or cuttings
Flavor/Aroma Earthy, sweet, nutty aroma, similar to an almond or macadamia
Taste Mild, slightly sweet, nutty flavor similar to almond meal
Lifespan More than 600 years
Season September to October
Precautions
  • The yellow core inside the nut may cause some people sick. You may remove the yellow core before consuming.

Plant Description

Bunya nuts is a large, evergreen, broadleaf, coniferous tree that normally grows about 45 meters (about 148 feet) tall, a diameter of 1.5 meters (around 4 feet), and a spread of 15 meters (49 feet) wide. The tallest presently living is one in Bunya Mountains National Park, Queensland which was reported by Robert Van Pelt in January 2003 to be 169 feet (51.5 m) in height. These softwood trees have horizontal branches which are evenly spaced and arranged in regular tiers till the apex of the tree. The thick and sturdy trunk is very straight and is brown to black in color. The trunk is often said to resemble the leg of an elephant or a dinosaur in appearance. The bark of the tree varies between dark brown to black. The thickness of the bark ranges from 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) and deeply furrowed on mature trees. Bunya trees are characterized by its symmetrical dome shaped crown. The branches grow until they are long enough and eventually fall off as they get hit by a falling cone. Hence the tree retains a dome shaped profile. The branches below the dome do not reach the size of the crown branches.

Leaves

Like the trunk and branches, the leaves of the bunya pine are unusual. The leaves are up to 7 cm (3 in) long, narrow, lance-shaped on young trees, changing to triangular-shaped on older branches. These emerge lime green, become dark glossy green with age and are stiff, sharply pointed and near stalkless. They are spirally arranged along the branches and remain on the tree in all seasons.

Leaf arrangement Spiral
Leaf type Simple
Leaf margin Entire
Leaf shape Linear, needle-like (filiform), lanceolate
Leaf venation Parallel
Leaf type and persistence Evergreen, needled evergreen
Leaf blade length Less than 2 inches
Leaf color Green
Fall color No color change
Fall characteristic Not showy

 

Seed Cone

Seed cones usually appear in April and mature in between September or October about 17 months after pollination. Trees begin to bear cones at about 14 years of age. Bunya Pine usually bears female and male cones on the same tree. But as is common with many conifers, male and female cones tend to appear at different stages of the tree’s life. Usually, male cones appear first. Then, in middle-age, female cones appear too, and the tree commences fruiting. Fertile cones are dark green, ovoid-sub globose, 30 cm (12 in) long, 20 cm (8 in) wide, weighing up to 20 kg (44 lbs.), though are more typically 5 to 10 kg (11 to 22 lbs.). They take two to three years to reach maturity, at which time they self-detach and fall to the ground, landing with a bump.

It is dangerous to hang around under the bunya trees during their fruiting time as the ripe cones fall to the ground. Once the cones become ripe, they should be harvested and processed or kept frozen within a week. Inside the cone, the nuts are enclosed in a wooden shell. Boiling the nuts can help in removing the shell easily. Bunya nuts are nutritionally rich and offer several health benefits.

Nuts and Seeds

Each cone consists of 50-100 seeds that are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, elongate-elliptic, wingless and encased in a thin, tough, buff-colored protective shell, which will split when boiled or put in a fire. Once this is done, the seed coat or shell of the nut must be opened with a nutcracker or hammer to reveal the large and very tasty seed inside. The flavor of the kernel is similar to a chestnut. They are opened by large birds, such as cockatoos, or disintegrate when mature to release the large seeds or nuts.

Fruit shape Oval, cone
Fruit length 3 to 6 inches, 6 to 12 inches
Fruit covering Dry or hard
Fruit color Brown
Fruit characteristics Does not attract wildlife; showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

 

Medicinal benefits

Research showed the results that extract of bunya nuts has anti-bacterial properties. Thus, bunya nuts have the ability to be used as an additional substance in foods that serve to slow the decay of foods that normally caused by bacteria. In addition, with these properties of bunya nuts may also be used to inhibit foodborne illness.

Instead of using chemical preservatives, people can start using these nuts to preserve food, because of their natural addictive properties. In the medical field, the anti-bacterial properties of bunya nuts may also be useful for use as antibiotic or anti-microbial agents. However the medicinal properties of the tree are unknown. Professional discussion is always suggested before using the plant medically.

Culinary Uses

  • Seed can be consumed raw, cooked or ground into a powder.
  • Starchy and delicious, it has the texture of a waxy boiled potato with the flavor of chestnuts.
  • Germinating seed produces an underground ‘earth nut’ which has a coconut-like flavor.
  • Nuts were additionally ground and made into a paste, which was eaten directly or cooked in hot coals to make bread.
  • Nuts were also stored in the mud of running creeks, and eaten in a fermented state.
  • When the nuts are boiled in water, the water turns red, making a flavorsome tea.
  • Bunya nut is nowadays used as an ingredient in making a vast variety of dishes including casseroles, pies, quiches, pastas, pancakes, porridge, hummus, pesto, biscuits, desserts, cakes, and breads.

Different Uses

Bunya nuts have several uses which can be categorized into the following:

Edible Uses

Seeds of the bunya pine are edible. They are eaten raw, roasted or grounded into a powder. These nuts are an important source of food and a delicacy for the Aborigines of Australia. Its taste has a texture of chestnut and a boiled potato.

Functional Uses

Bunya nuts tree provides valuable timber for cabinets, wood makers and flooring. The soft wood of the bunya pine are in great demand for making acoustic guitar soundboards. The branches are used by the locals for fencing and fuel.

Service Uses

The tall bunya trees act as a wind breaker and also provide shade and shelter.

Ornamental Uses

The distinctive trees are placed as a decorative plant for parks, landscape, avenues and can also be used as a house plant.

Storing bunya nuts

Bunya nuts taste best when eaten fresh. However, if you want to store them, the ideal way is to freeze the nuts in their shells. Before putting the nuts in the refrigerator, you can store the nuts in a string bag and place the bag in a dry and well-aired place away from direct sunlight. This will help to prevent the growth of fungus. Storing the nuts inside the refrigerator keeps them fresh and prevents them from sprouting.

Method of preparing the bunya nut for cooking

Bunya nuts come in different sizes and shapes. While some are white, small and round, others are brown and oval in shape. The brown colored ones have a creamy texture and the white ones have a coarse texture. Bunyas fall to the ground when they are ready to harvest. If the cones are intact after hitting the ground, you need to break open the cone and separate the nuts from it. Unlike other nuts like the walnuts, the bunya nuts have a leathery and tough shell and will not break open easily. You may need to use tools like a cleaver or serrated knife to get the job done. Once the nuts are extracted, keep them in water for a few minutes to get rid of the thin brown skin. Boiling is the most recommended way of preparing the bunya nut, because other methods like frying and roasting may cause the flesh to dry out. The nuts need to be cooked for a good 30 to 45 minutes. Some people choose to boil them in brine, as this method tends to give the nuts a salty and savory taste.

Bunya Nuts Recipe

 

Charred Courgette, Bunya Nuts and Herbs

Ingredients

  • 4 yellow courgettes
  • 1/2 cup bunya nuts, roasted and chopped (or replace with pine nuts or almonds)
  • 2 cups mixed herbs like parsley, mint, dill and whatever you like the flavour of
  • 1 lemon

Directions

  1. Slice the courgette lengthways about 5mm thick.
  2. Drizzle with oil and cook on a really hot wood grill, chargrill or griddle-pan. Only cook on one side.
  3. Once done place into a bowl with the bunya nuts or roast almonds.
  4. Zest in the lemon rind then squeeze in the juice.
  5. Add the herbs and a dash of good olive oil.
  6. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve.

Other Facts

  • Branches are used for fencing and fuel.
  • Tallest presently living is one in Bunya Mountains National Park, Queensland which was reported by Robert Van Pelt in January 2003 to be 169 feet (51.5 m) in height.
  • Indigenous Australians ate bunya shoots, and utilized the tree’s bark as kindling.
  • Wood pulp is used for making paper.
  • General purpose softwood is used in making plywood, interior joinery, flooring, linings, moldings, furniture and general, interior construction.
  • Musical instruments, especially sought after for guitar soundboards.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=506779#null

https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Araucaria+bidwillii

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=ARBI12

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/7151

https://landscapeplants.oregonstate.edu/plants/araucaria-bidwillii

https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/54481/#b

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Araucaria_bidwillii

https://www.conifers.org/ar/Araucaria_bidwillii.php

https://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Bunya%20Pine.html

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-14343

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/ARUBI

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