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Tiwi Food: Plants

This table provides information about plants eaten by the Tiwi people. Non-Tiwi are advised against eating these plants; many species are difficult to identify or may require special preparation to counteract toxicity. For a more comprehensive list of plants please refer to Tiwi plants and animals: Aboriginal flora and fauna knowledge from Bathurst and Melville Islands, northern Australia (2001) Puruntatameri, J., et al. Plant material cannot be removed from the Tiwi Islands without a permit.

Tiwi Name 

 

Common Name

 

Scientific Name 

 

Tiwi Season

 

Use 

Alimpunga 

 

Black Currant

 

Antidesma ghesaembilla

 

Jamutakari

 

The fruit, which are eaten when they turn black, are very sweet and tasty. 

Jaliwaki

 

Bush Potato

 

Brachystelma glabriflorum

 

Jamutakari

 

Black star-like flowers in Jamutakari, the wet season, indicate that Jaliwaki, a disc-shaped yam, is ready to be dug up, cleaned and eaten. The flesh, which is very tasty, can be eaten raw or lightly roasted.

Jimijinga

 

Milky Plum

 

Persoonia falcata

 

Jamutakari

 

The fruit are eaten when ripe - green but soft to the touch. 

Jora

 

Carpentaria Palm

 

Carpentaria acuminata

 

All seasons

 

The flesh of the growing point, or tia, is eaten after chopping open the leaf bases to expose the pale crisp flesh. The white pith, or pajikura, can be squeezed or sucked to obtain water, or it may be cooked and then eaten. In the past, sections of stem were carried on long walks as a supply of water.

Kanuli

 

Cocky Apple

 

Planchonia careya

 

Jamutakari

 

The corms at the base of the stem in the mud are dug up, roasted and eaten. Sometimes when Mayimampi (Magpie Geese) are killed the crop is full of Kirlinja. These are taken and eaten.

Kirlinja

 

Water Chestnut

 

Eleocharis dulcis

 

Kumunupunari

 

The corms at the base of the stem in the mud are dug up, roasted and eaten. Sometimes when Mayimampi (Magpie Geese) are killed the crop is full of Kirlinja. These are taken and eaten.

Kurlama

 

Yam

 

Dioscorea bulbifera

 

End of Jamutakari

 

Kurlama yams are the focus for the Kurlama ceremony, which is a highly significant event in the Tiwi ceremonial calendar. Kurlama yams are only eaten after the ceremony. 

Malinki

 

Peanut Tree

 

Sterculia quadrifida

 

Tiyari

 

The black seeds, which taste like raw peanuts, are eaten when the fruit are ripe and split open. 

Minta

 

Cycad

 

Cycas armstrongii

 

Kumunupunari

 

The orange seeds, kwaka, are roasted in ashes, cracked, dehusked and pounded. The pulp is soaked in water for three days and nights before it can be eaten. If the seeds are eaten raw they may cause severe vomiting and sickness.

Miyaringa

 

Pandanus

 

Pandanus spiralis

 

Kumunupunari

 

The seeds, temelepama, inside the fruit, wurranya, are eaten after roasting. 

Muranga

 

Long Yam

 

Dioscorea transversa

 

Kumunupunari

 

Muranga yam may be eaten raw or roasted. It is considered excellent food and is a staple. The timing of its use is the same as for Kurlama.

Parntirringa

 

White Currant

 

Flueggea virosa

 

Jamutakari

 

The fruit is eaten when ripe and pink and is very tasty compared to other Bush Apples. Pinyama is one of the most highly regarded Tiwi foods.

Pinyawini

 

Red Bush Apple

 

Syzygium suborbiculare

 

Tiyari

 

The red fruit is eaten but not the seed. Pinyawini is not considered to be as sweet or tasty as Pinyama. 

Pirlamunga

 

Billy Goat Plum

 

Terminalia ferdinandiana

 

Jamutakari

 

Pirlamunga fruit are eaten when they ripen to a pale green to yellow colour. 

Purnarrika

 

Water Lily

 

Nymphaea violacea

 

Kumunupunari

 

The tuberous roots of Purnarrika are dug out the of the mud, cleaned, peeled and eaten. The seeds and flowers are also eaten.

Rani

 

Wild Carrot

 

Abelmoschus moschatus

 

Jamutakari

 

The carrot-like tuber is dug up, cleaned and eaten.

Tiyoni

 

Cheeky Yam

 

Amorphophallus galbra

 

Kumunupunari

 

The tuber is dug up when the above ground stems have gone yellow and then covered in coals and cooked overnight. The tuber is eaten on the first night of the Kurlama ceremony. 

Wakajini

 

 

 

Eriosema chinense

 

Late Jamutakari/ early Kumunupunari

 

The small tubers are dug up and eaten after roasting on ashes. 

Wupwarna

 

Bush Pumpkin

 

Amorphophallus paeoniifolius

 

Jamutakari

 

The tuber is eaten after extensive preparation, which includes overnight cooking. 

Wurnika

 

Black Plum

 

Vitex glabrata

 

Jamutakari

 

Wurnika fruit, which are eaten when black, are very sweet and highly regarded as a food source. 

Yankumwani

 

Green Plum

 

Buchanania obovata

 

Jamutakari

 

Yankumwani fruit are eaten when ripe - green but soft to touch. New sucker shoots, which appear after fire, are red and fleshy. The red skin is peeled off and the inner green stem eaten.