Ingredient Showcase – Some of Australia’s best kept secrets hiding in plain site

Ingredient Showcase header image

Information can often be taken for granted, we generally feel that any words we type into google will give us the exact results we want within seconds. This was not the case when I began what I thought would be a small amount of time on a handful of websites. My search for information on Australia’s most beneficial native ingredients began at my computer alone at night but took me on a journey from my desk chair to many different parts of Australia and when I say that I’m speaking literally. After hours of dead ends and minute pieces of information which were less than satisfactory I was beginning to lose hope in my quest to thoroughly research incredibly beneficial ingredients native to Australia. Throughout my quest I came across one small piece of information, a local farm in Gippsland Victoria that sold the plants which bare the fruits and flowers that I wanted. In one of those far too coincidental moments I was told via email that my communication was perfectly timed and that I could have the plants I desired put aside for me to collect as they had just been prepared to sell and they generally move fast.

I came away from my correspondence feeling pretty good, I knew that when the time came to pick up my new plants I could begin a serious Q&A to have some vital questions answered. The next day I was delighted to see that I had received an email from one of the farm owners, it was an invitation to experience the farm and attend a dinner that is hosted every quarter. I jumped at the opportunity to attend and enthusiastically let them know I would be there. The owners of the farm are a husband and wife who were former educators, their passion and expertise is astounding and you can tell they have dedicated countless hours and unconditional effort into the construction and maintenance of the plants which grow there. I was taken around the garden which had been methodically constructed to account for each plants specific wants and needs, I was curious as to why so much precision had been put into the layout of the garden. It was explained to me that not all of these plants are native to Victoria and in the beginning growing them was trial and error, they didn’t know whether or not the experiment would prove successful but after many long years they believe they have achieved the best results with the resources available.

When I began to explain my disappointment at the lack of resources available on the internet, I was met with a faint snicker of laughter, this prompted me to conclude that they have heard this many times over. I was told that if you really want to learn about the plants and their benefits you have to do the hard yards, you have to explore, talk to growers and farmers and seek out as much reading material as you can. After being lost in a major session of education and an exceptional dinner which consisted of the plants that I had gone to see I was satisfied and hopeful that the health benefits associated with these particular plants could one day make their way into the mainstream for the masses to experience. I had taken with me, three of the plants which I had enjoyed the most, for both the health benefits that they provide inside and outside of the body – Tasmannia Lanceolate (Mountain Pepperberry), Microcitrus Australasica (Finger Lime) and Kunzea Pomifera (Native Cranberry or Emu Apple).

Kangaroo in Gippsland
Mountain Pepperberry Recipe Image
Anise Leaves complete

After many months of consistent research, tending to my own plants and keeping in contact with local growers I accumulated a wealth of knowledge on native Australian ingredients. While I am still on a journey of discovery I have decided to write this piece to pass on what I have experienced to many out there who may be undertaking the same process I have. When it comes to the subject of beauty I know how addictive the passion for discovery can be and anything new to come into the sphere of the genre can be very exciting. I will leave you with a showcase of the three ingredients I view as particularly special and who’s fantastic qualities hold a strong place within the Novellus range.

The Mountain Pepper has a long history in Australia, both the berries and the leaves that are grown have amazing benefits to both your health and your skin. What first garnered my attention was when the berries are aged and dried they make a fantastic substitute for pepper, they produce a slightly spicy alternative taste and render a beautiful purple hue. The unassuming leaves of the mountain pepper are incredibly high in Vitamin A and Vitamin E which, as you know, are very beneficial in slowly down the ageing process of our skin. With the popularity of retinol as a source of Vitamin A many of us are over looking the unfortunate instability that is associated with this ingredient, the mountain pepper leaves are one of a small handful of ingredients which possess similar doses of Vitamin A without the underlying instability and is used as a completely natural alternative.

While the leaves of the mountain pepper hold great vitamin content the berries contain a lesser known and talked about active called manganese. Manganese is a natural mineral that acts as a facilitator for many different metabolic processes within our bodies. It has just been discovered in recent years that having a decent manganese content has shown to improve the tone and texture of skin when applied topically and strengthen skin cells around high movement areas such as the eyes and forehead. Considering these berries have been overlooked and shun from the spotlight they have slipped through the cracks as being a primary source of manganese and an underrated skin ageing combatinate. Whether ingested or applied topically manganese is an active ingredient which should be highly sort after on your priority list of active botanical ingredients.

Kangaroo in Gippsland

For many months I have been growing my own Microcitrus Australasica in my home south east of Melbourne CBD with much success. The finger lime fruit is generally only grown in Queensland around tropical and subtropical climates but it was discovered they could be grown in Victoria under the right conditions. For me, I personally felt that going through the effort of growing the very ingredients included in the Novellus formulas was an endeavour that had to be undertaken to enhance my knowledge and appreciation for these outstanding botanics. The finger lime is a special fruit because there are some theories that it could be one of, if not, the oldest known citrus fruit identified by humans. Many scientists are now speculating that the citrus could have first evolved in Australia rather than the current mainstream belief that it evolved in South East Asia. The theory estimates that the citrus could have travelled from Australia through New Caledonia and New Guinea approximately 30 million years ago, which is incredible if accurate.

Aside from them tasting amazing and complementing juices and smoothies, I find the history behind the fruit fascinating. Just like the other amazing native ingredients the finger lime is no different, it boasts immensely high levels of Vitamin C along with substantial levels of antioxidants and potassium. Along with possessing these great health benefits the finger lime also contains antimicrobial properties, which means it does a great job of cleaning the surface and epidermis of any bad bacteria. During my research journey I was amazed to discover that there are vast amounts of finger limes grown in California, USA. Up along many parts of the west coast of America are the perfect climates for growing this Native Australian fruit which they have done in large enough quantities for consumer consumption. I absolutely love this fruit but the only disappointment I have faced has been the availability during the winter months of the year.

The last native fruit I wish to feature is the Kunzea Pomifera commonly referred to as the Native Australian Cranberry or Emu Apple. This fruit is tiny and berry like in appearance, the complexion can either be a deep green or a light purple and they are increasingly difficult to source. The inspiration to include the native australian cranberry was the fact it has long been sort after as a fruit to help with troubled skin conditions. Not only that but recently a study conducted by the CSIRO has shown that this Australian superfood inhibits the growth and proliferation of cancer cells within the human body. As I am sure most of us have either experienced first hand the devastating effects that come with cancer or know someone who has, this native fruit is a significant curiosity to me personally. Being such a difficult fruit to source means that it can only be enjoyed during particular times of the year mainly January through to April, however there are companies in Australia who make jams and chutneys from them which can be enjoyed year long.

The Kunzea Pomifera is such a good active ingredient for skin care because of its high antioxidant content, anti-inflammatory properties and antibacterial nature. Along with containing a good dose of Vitamin C it also contains flavone glycosides an important element in the process of absorbing the active components of ingredients into the skin. Because of this factor we decided on including the Native Cranberry Enzyme into most of our range. I think the fact that it is scarce makes it all the more valuable and the opportunities we have to obtain the fruit make us want to preserve the experience. I highly recommend you make the time to venture to your local market and ask the growers if they can help you get a hold of some native cranberries, they go well with desserts such as cakes and muffins or alone in fruit salads.

Although I could have written a larger piece I felt as though this would have been a great first introduction. I challenge you to take the time and adopt a plant of your own, learn more about the benefits and go as far as incorporating the native foods into your diet, your body will thank you ten fold. I am happy to see more people and brands take on these amazing botanics, but we still have a long way to go before we can see growers produce enough for us all year round.