Terminalia ferdinandiana. Billygoat plum. Gubinge. Salty plum. Mador. Murunga. Green plum.
All of these names refer to the fruit that grows from one powerful little Australian tree: the Kakadu plum. (1)
How to spot a Kakadu plum in the wild
If you find yourself in Australia and want to go looking for Kakadu plums, you’ll find them in small to medium-sized leafy trees found along the coast. (1, 2) These trees have thin, leggy branches with green veiny leaves stretching out from clusters of stems. In spring and summer, small white flowers with yellow centers bloom from among the stem clusters. These flowers are fragrant and eventually bear fruit. (3)
Kakadu plums (the fruit) are small and almond-shaped, kind of like tiny, green, shiny lemons. Unripe plums are hard and light green, then they turn yellow and soften when ripe. Each fruit contains a large seed in the center. (4)
They can be eaten raw, though you’re more likely to find them cooked into a dessert
Kakadu plums are very high in Vitamin C, which means they are quite sour before they ripen (just like an unripe orange, lemon, or blueberry tastes very sour). Once ripe, they become sweet and smell a bit floral. (4) The fruit can be eaten raw but they are more commonly cooked down into jams or sauces, made into juice, and even used to flavour ice cream. (3)
They contain an incredible amount of Vitamin C
Although Kakadu plums contain a variety of nutrients and phytochemicals, it’s their impressive Vitamin C content that makes them ‘super’. Most people think of oranges when you mention Vitamin C, and sources say that the Vitamin C in a Kakadu plum is 50-100 times more potent than the concentration found in oranges. (4, 5) Vitamin C is one of the most powerful known antioxidants and studies have shown that adding more to our diet has incredible preventative health benefits. (4)
Medicine that happens to be delicious
Traditionally, indigenous Australians have used Kakadu plums as a food source and for their medicinal properties, but they were actually more valued as medicine than a food source. (1) Kakadu plum tree bark has been used to treat skin disorders and infections, and in addition to all the health benefits from their impressive Vitamin C content, the fruit has been found to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties. (1, 4)
Not all Kakadu plums are created equal
As is true of many fruits, Kakadu plums growing in their native location (mainly the Kimberley region of Australia) and in the wild have been shown to have a much higher concentration of Vitamin C and antioxidants than those cultivated in other areas. (4) This is thought to be due to the harsh conditions that the trees face in their native location: withstanding those conditions is believed to trigger mechanisms that cause the trees to increase Vitamin C, nutrient, and antioxidant production for defense and survival. (4)
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