Several species have been used for commercial harvest for a variety of reasons: abundance of seed, ease of access, taste and ease to process. However, not all species are suitable for these applications or commercial production. The most popular species for commercial harvest of wattleseed are:
- Acacia victoriae – elegant wattle
- A. aneura – mulga wattle
- A. pycnantha – golden wattle
- A. retinodes – silver wattle
- A. longifolia var. sophorae – coastal wattle.
Since the 1990s, there has been commercial interest in harvesting wattleseed, and roasting it for sale, whole or ground. Some businesses extract essence from the seed. It has a strong nutty and/or coffee flavour with a slight bitterness. The flour is used in cakes, damper, breads, casseroles and curries; the essence is used as a flavouring ingredient; and wattleseed is used in ice-cream, sauces, marinades and as a caffeine-free ‘coffee’. On occasions, the flowers (without stalks) have been used in pancakes, scones and omelettes.
Wattleseed has a low glycaemic index, high levels of protein and provides a good source of magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron and selenium. It has been a staple food ingredient for Indigenous Australians for at least 4,000 years. Since 1970 some edible species of wattle have been exported to Africa to assist drought-affected populations create a staple food source.
The market demand is currently met by a combination of ‘wild harvest’ and cultivation. There is strong involvement of indigenous communities in the wild harvest and cultivation of wattleseed, and these communities have well established links to the subsequent business/value chain. However, year to year supply can be variable due to supply being significantly made up of wild harvested product.
The production/harvest for commercial purposes is a small and developing industry, within the developing native foods industry. Australian Native Food & Botanicals (ANFAB) is the peak body for the Australian native food industry.
Facts and figures
- Wattleseed has provided Indigenous Australians with a rich source of protein and carbohydrate for thousands of years
- Not all wattleseed are edible, species choice is very important in this regard
- The seeds of Acacias have very hard husks and can remain intact, on the ground, for up to 20 years in their natural environment, usually only germinating after bushfires
- Harvested seed is roasted and sold whole or ground; it has a strong nutty and/or coffee flavour with a slight bitterness
- Wattleseed flour is used in cakes, damper, breads, casseroles and curries; the essence is used as a flavouring ingredient; and wattleseed is used in ice-cream, sauces, marinades and as a caffeine-free ‘coffee’
The market is small and prospective growers of wattle trees are strongly advised to understand market opportunities and market size before establishing a plantation
Accurate information is not readily available for the native foods industry but a recent stocktake of the industry provides good estimates of industry characteristics, production figures and product value.
There are around six processors of wattleseed in Australia, who source their own seed through directly harvesting wild trees, contracting harvesters to collect wild seed or cultivating their own plantation of wattle trees. The harvest, cultivation and /or processing of wattleseed is one of several/many enterprises for harvesters and processers alike. The market demand for wattleseed is simply not large enough to justify a single enterprise operation.
A mature wattle tree can yield about 10–15kg of seed per tree. One native food company markets 100kg of wattleseed product per year, harvested from 20–30 trees, indicating the small number of trees involved within an established enterprise.