The muntries bush has small round leaves about 3–4mm in diameter and profuse cream feathery flowers in spring. The berries grow in clusters and are up to 1cm in size, green to red in colour, with a purplish tinge appearing as they ripen. Also known as munterberries, emu apples or native cranberries, the edible fruit has a sweet, spicy, apple–juniper flavour and is crunchy in texture.
Muntries are grown commercially in Victoria and South Australia on a modest scale and also collected in the wild. They are sold fresh, frozen or dried. High in antioxidants, muntries can be eaten fresh or used in many sweet or savoury dishes. Muntries are also used in the manufacture of natural beauty products.
The supply of muntries has become more reliable and consistent with the shift from wild harvest to cultivation, however there is discussion in the industry that better cultivars are needed to improve flavour and productivity.
Traditionally, muntries were highly valued by Indigenous Australians. An important source of nutrition when eaten fresh, the surplus fruit was made into flat dried cakes and traded between tribes for weapons and other commodities. It was known by various names among Indigenous people including munthari, munta, mantirri and mantari. The berries were a welcome food source for early settlers, who used them in cakes, jams and chutneys.
Australian native foods growers are represented by Australian Native Food & Botanicals (ANFAB).
Facts and figures
- The fruit can be used fresh, frozen or dried in numerous sweet and savoury dishes
- The fruit is also made into jams, chutneys, sauces and natural beauty products
- Muntries are four times higher in antioxidants than blueberries and contain wound-healing and skin-nourishing properties
- A prostrate shrub in the wild, it has been successfully cultivated through cuttings and grafting to grow on trellising in order to maximise production
- Under cultivation, muntries are established as an upright shrub on a trellis and the plant will bear fruit in the second year after planting and reach full production in five years
Commercial markets were established on wild harvested fruit but for many reasons, including the need for consistent levels of production and quality and concern about the environmental impact of wild harvest, nearly all fruit traded is produced under cultivation.
Enterprises vary greatly in size and scale, ranging from individual growers who produce a range of native foods, and undertake their own processing, sales and marketing to larger commercial operations, some of which are vertically integrated. Three producers are Indigenous communities in South Australia.