Bush foods & tools


Uluru is a place full of surprises. This desert country might look dry but it has always provided us with food, water and medicine.

Plants provide more than just food. They give us fuel for cooking and warmth, medicine, raw materials for implements and weapons, ornaments and decoration used in ritual ceremonies. If you visit our park you can buy some traditional wooden crafts and artworks at the Cultural Centre

  • Bush foods

    In our culture men and women perform different tasks, different business. Women were traditionally responsible for gathering mai - which are fruits, seeds and vegetables.

    Listen to our bush foods audio tour.


    • Bush plum

      We call it: Arnguli Sounds like: Ah-noo-lee
      The bush plum was like a ‘fast food’ - eaten fresh as people travelled, hunted and camped. It could also be dried out and saved for later. Fruit usually appears after rain in the warmer months. Sometimes it would be added to seed cakes to make them taste a bit nicer. The seeds can also be ground up and used as a medicine for bruises and skin conditions.

    • Bush tomato

      We call it: Tjantu Sounds like: Jarn-too
      This wild tomato grows as a short shrub. Also known as western night-shade, the bitter juice must be spat out before you can eat the ripe flesh of the fruit.

    • Desert raisin

      We call it: Kampurarpa Sounds like: Come-poor-rah-pah
      This is the most important food plant in the park because it is very common and produces edible fruit all year round. Dried fruit can be ground into a paste and rolled into balls. It can be eaten straight away or stored for later. The fresh fruit has a sweet taste but you have to be careful – eat too much and it will give you a headache or sore tummy.

    • Honey ants

      We call it: Tjala Sounds like: Jah-lah
      Honey ants are a great delicacy. The ants have deep underground nests and it requires a lot of skill to collect them. It’s mostly women who collect the ants, who use sticks to dig about one metre down in the soil to find the central part of the ants nest. They then use a stick or a long wire to bring the ants to the surface. You eat the ant by holding its body and popping the abdomen swollen with sweet honey-like syrup into the mouth.

    • Witchetty grub

      We call it: Maku Sounds like: Mah-koo
      Witchetty grubs are probably one of the best known bush foods. These white, wood-eating, edible grubs are found in the roots of trees and are a tasty and important source of protein.

    • Native fig

      We call it: Ili Sounds like: Ear-lee
      Ili is an important plant food. In the desert water can be hard to find. Fortunately the biggest and best ili bushes always grow near waterholes, revealing where the water can be found. The fig is good food- you can eat it straight off the tree when it's dark red. Sweet foods like ili were rare in traditional times, so everyone loves it!

    • Seed cake

      We call it: Nyuma Sounds like: New-mah
      Seed cake was a staple in traditional times. Seeds were collected from grasses like the naked woolybutt and then ground to a flour, before being mixed with water to create nyuma - the seed cake. When in season fruits like native fig and bush plum were added to seed cake to make it taste nicer.

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  • Bush tools

    Men are most likely to be hunters. Children have an important role to play in gathering and hunting. They accompany their parents to collect bush foods, learning from the adults.

    • Adhesive gum

      We call it: Kiti Sounds like: Kee-dee
      Men mostly get the resin from the base of spinifex grass stems. This resin is then mixed with sand and heated up to make a sticky paste. When it cools down it sets really hard - just like modern super glue!

    • Boomerang

      We call it: Kali Sounds like: Carl-lee
      Kali are made from Mulga wood and don’t return. This type of boomerang is most often used in pairs as a musical instrument during traditional ceremony. Other types of boomerang are used to hunt.

    • Bowl scoop

      We call it: Wira Sounds like: Wi-rah
      This is a small wooden bowl or cup used to dig. It was also used as a drinking cup or to collect small fruits like berries.

    • Club

      We call it: Tjutinypa Sounds like: Choon-tin-pa
      Central and western desert people have always made a variety of wooden hunting, fighting and ceremonial clubs. Tjutinypa is the most common type for us - a long narrow club often fitted with a quartz cutting edge in the handle. It is mostly used for hunting.

    • Round grinding stone

      We call it: Tjungari and tjiwa Sounds like: Joong-ar-ee and and gee-wa
      The base rock is named tjiwa and the hand-held grindstone or pestle is named tjungari. They are used to process seeds into flour and to grind fruit. They are the property of women, often handed down daughters and granddaughters.

    • Spear

      We call it: Kulata Sounds like: Coorl-ah-tah
      This is a hunting spear, about nine feet long and made from the long, flexible branches of the tecoma vine. The shaft is made by passing it through a small fire, straightening it and smoothing it down. The flat, hardwood spearhead and barb are secured to the shaft with spinifex resin and lashed together with kangaroo or emu sinew.

    • Spear thrower

      We call it: Miru Sounds like: Mi-roo
      The spear thrower is a multi-purpose tool. Traditionally we used it for spear throwing and sharpening, cutting meat, as a place to mix ochre, as a fire-making saw and for deflecting spears in combat.

    • Women's digging stick

      We call it: Wana Sounds like: Wan-na
      Made from a stout length of mulga wood with a sharpened and fire-hardened point, the wana was used to dig out grubs, edible roots and burrowing animals. Today a shovel more often takes the place of a wana.

    • Woman's head ring

      We call it: Manguri Sounds like: Mung-ah-ree
      A manguri is a head ring made of twisted grass or cloth, used to help carry loads like a bowl of water on the head.

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