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Bush Tucker Articles

(Aleurites moluccana)

The Candle Nut has been a source of food for Aborigines, people of the Pacific and South-East Asians. Before eating, the seeds should be roasted, as raw nuts have a purging effect. In cooked condition they make a pleasant nut, taken in moderation. The purging effect allows the nut to be utilized as a laxative. Used with caution, a dose of about 30ml of the oil has been recommended.

Caution: The very similar-looking Aleurites (A. rockinghamensis) has seeds that are quite toxic.

On the Bloomfield River in far north Queensland, Aborigines used the oil to fix the ochre for spear painting. It is also reported that Aborigines ringbarked the trees to allow the growth in the decaying trunk of large white grubs, which were a popular item of diet.

The timber is silvery white, very plain and, although light and soft, is fairly tough. When draining boards were of wooden construction and kitchen shelves were often left unpainted, Candle Nut was popular for the purpose, because it retained its whitish colour for a long time. Today, the timber is mainly utilized for packing cases.

The oil is extracted by cold or hot pressing, the former giving it a higher quality product. It is similar to linseed or tung oil and can be used in making paints, varnishes, soap, and as a wood preservative for boats. The nut can be split without shattering by heating on a fire or in an oven, or even in the hot sun for four or five days, then cooled rapidly, usually with cold water.

Candle Nut oil cake is high in nitrogenous content and makes a useful fertilizer for agricultural purposes. The leaves were collected and spread on coffee fields and ploughed in "as maintaining the soil in such a state fit for the nitrifying bacteria to function in a period of drought".

An average tree may produce 100-150 lbs of nuts a year, yielding about 35-40% of oil. When planted on a commercial scale in certain subtropical climates, it is said to give 5 tons of seed (1800 lbs oil) per acre of mature trees.

Sources:

Cribb A.B. & J.W. "Useful Wild Plants in Australia". Collins 1982.
Cribb A.B & J.W. "Wild Food in Australia". Angus & Robertson 1988.
DPI "Trees and Shrubs". 1995.
Macmillan H.F. "Tropical Planting and Gardening". 1935.
Townsend K. "Across the Top". SGAP 1994.