A chat with Narelle Happ

Cooking Circles volunteer Anna White spoke to Narelle Happ about her passion for bush tucker, gardening, and community.

Narelle Happ is well known to Cooking Circles after running some workshops in Canberra on bush tucker.

Narelle studied permaculture, horticulture and landscape design. She is a permaculture teacher and works as a landscape designer for Sydney Wildflower Nursery, a native a specialist nursery.  She also works as an educator in seed raising, garden design, citrus fruit, pruning, permaculture, composting and worm farming.

Narelle’s real passion is bush tucker.  She spends much of her time running workshops at primary schools, high schools and with community groups on this topic which has long been ignored but is now in vogue.

Narelle has a large garden at her home south of Sydney where she grows a lot of bush tucker.  She is very fond of warrigal greens (New Zealand spinach).  She makes a warrigal greens pesto with roast macadamias which she serves with fish or chicken.  She says that warrigal greens are very easy to grow and very good for you.  Captain Cook encouraged his men to eat warrigal greens as a way of fighting scurvy.  Many convicts owed their lives to this humble plant.  In fact, Joseph Banks was so impressed with it that he took it back to England.  This plant is also high in fibre, has sedative properties and is also believed to help prevent ulcers.

Many of the native berries are also very nutritious and tasty.  A particular favourite for Narelle is the Atherton raspberry, a tropical raspberry which is native to Australia and to Papua New Guinea.  Narelle uses the raspberry leaves to make a tea.  She also uses the fruit to make jam, syrup and cordial.  The fruit is very high in vitamin C.

Narelle’s absolute favourite bush food is lemon myrtle.  It can be used as a tea, cordial, in desserts and in soaps and shampoos.   It also has medicinal qualities.

Narelle enjoys running her bush tucker workshops as it is a way of bringing people together.  Even if you are not a cook, you can get involved.  It does not matter if you are not fluent in English.  For Narelle, the workshops are a way of learning about other cultures and sharing knowledge.  She believes that the pace of life today is just too busy and that we need to slow down and take time to eat food that is seasonal whilst also enjoying the company of others.  Her workshops are educational but also serve as a means of cultural exchange.

Fortunately for us, Narelle loves Canberra so we hope to have her back soon to run some more workshops for Cooking Circles.  You can check out her website at www.agardenforlife.com.au.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram as A Garden for Life.

Narelle Happ takes us through her bush tucker recipe
One of the bush-based workshops by Narelle Happ
Bush tucker plants available in South East Australia

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