Kutjera (Kampurarpa - Pitjantjatjara language) is a small desert plant approximately 30cm in height, with grey to bronze leaves and attractive mauve/blue flowers. It grows naturally through the central deserts from Tennant Creek, NT to Marla, SA. Part of the tomato family (which includes potatoes and capsicums), there are over 100 species of Solanums (Wild Tomatoes) in Australia. However, only six are known to be edible, and Kutjera - Desert Raisins - are the most well known and certainly the most consumed species of the "bush tomatoes".

In the red, sandy desert, the plants grow quickly after summer rains, mainly from dormant root stock which can last for many years between favorable seasons. The plant also responds and grows rapidly after soil disturbance (along roadsides) or after bushfires.

This arid lands fruit has been a staple food of the indigenous desert dwellers of Central Australia for many thousands of years. A rich source of minerals, particularly potassium, they are also high in vitamin C. The traditional harvesting method is to collect the sun dried fruits of the small bush in the autumn and winter months. In the dried form, the Desert Raisins can be stored for several years.

Desert Raisins are now being cultivated in commercial plots on indigenous communities in the desert regions of Australia. With the use of water-wise irrigation systems, the fruiting cycle has been expanded to eight months instead of just two months (as in the wild).

Uses: Sauces and dressings, spice blends

Similar to: Smoky dried tomato

Season: Sun dries on the bush  from mid Summer, but is continuously harvested as a dried berry through to mid Winter.

Supplied: Dried

Available to: Outback Pride Fresh food service

Mike and Gayle Quarmby

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