New study to look at Indigenous Australian fermentation

Updated October 27, 2016 17:20:32

If you thought brewing in Australia was a 21st century phenomenon think again, a new study is exploring how Indigenous Australians were able to create fermented food and drinks.

The University of Adelaide looking at the techniques that might have been used to produce sweet foods and drinks with a mild alcohol content.

It is hoped the research will be able to uncover the method of how this was achieved.

"Our interest is to characterised these in terms of the starting materials," said Professor Vladimir Jiranek, from the University of Adelaide.

"We"re keen to understand the microbiology, the yeast and the bacteria that may be present and what of contributions they make to the product."

One of the aims of the research is to try to discover the strains of yeast that would have made this fermentation possible.

"Our interest is to see whether the yeast that are present in that, are any different ... to the yeasts we see in other fermentation contexts," Professor Jiranek said.

It will look at a range of plants and process across the country, including quandong roots in South Australia and the sap of cider gums in Tasmania.

The liquid has an unique taste, which makes it highly desirable to both humans and animals.

"This sap is actually quite runny, it"s quite high in sugar and apparently is devoid of an unpleasant eucalyptus flavour.

"It"s actually quite an appealing sap in itself," Professor Jiranek said.

The sap, which could be produced in large quantities, would then be collected and produced into a low alcohol product.

It will also look into the use of banksias, pandanus nuts and palm trees.

The idea to pursue the research came about after discussion with a local Kaurna man.

"[He] highlighted to us the fact that it"s likely that many Aboriginal communities practice some form of a fermentation to produce a beverage," Professor Jiranek said.

The research is in the preliminary stages but planning is underway for the first field trip to Tasmania.

They are asking for any postgraduate students who may be interested in participating in the study.

"I guess our main interest is to reveal the huge scope and the wealth of accumulated knowledge of these processes," Professor Jiranek said.

"I think the choice of plants is not something that happened by chance, there"s a lot of background information that informed the Aboriginal people."

Topics: indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, science-and-technology, rural, adelaide-university-5005

First posted October 27, 2016 15:38:25