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Bush Tomato

Solanum centrale

Bush Tomato
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Bush Tomato • Solanum centrale
The Bush Tomato, also known as the Bush raisin or Desert raisin and Akudjurra (Solanum centrale), is a bush tucker that has gained popularity in western cuisine. Although there are several edible species of Solanum found in the Central Australia region, Solanum centrale is the most popular and considered favourable for cultivation to satisfy western demands.

Other species that may be referred to as bush tomatoes include:

Care should be taken when identifying the bush tomato in the wild as there are a number of closely related species, that are similar in appearance, but are toxic. In addition, there can be variation to the bush tomato, within the same species, the variation usually obvious in the leaves, making it appear to be different plants, even when they are growing in the same area.

The fruit of the bush tomato are round, approximately 10-20 mm in diameter and turn from green to yellow when ripe. When they are dried they look like raisins. Fruit ripening on the bush dry to resemble a raisin.

If you are not an expert at identifying the plant, ‘DO NOT’ eat the fruit, as some Solanum species that look similar, are toxic.

In the Solanum centrale, the unripe fruit contains the toxin solanine (the same as that found in green potatoes) and must be fully ripened before consumption.

There are many other Solanum species that resemble Solanum centrale, and only some of them produce edible fruit eg Solanum chippendalei and Solanum ellipticum. Some closely related species produce fruit that are toxic.

The plant itself is usually found as a small rounded, prickly shrub (250 to 500 mm high and wide) and occurs naturally in Central Australia (SA, WA and NT), usually in areas of 150 to 300 mm rainfall, and generally on red sandy soils. Although the plant has also been found growing on heavier textured soils in some locations.

The leaves are a grey-green to green leaves, usually covered with fine silvery or rust coloured hairs, producing pink to purple flowers, similar in shape to the standard tomato plant, but larger. The plant can be found flowering during spring, summer and autumn.

Language Common name Where Found
English Bush raisin, Bush tomato, Bush sultana, Desert raisin, Akatyerre, Kampurrarpa Occurs naturally in Central Australia (South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory).
  Akatjurra - the Aboriginal name for ground Bush Tomato.
Alyawarr Aktjurra, Akatjira, Akatyerr
Anangu Kampurarpa, Kati.kati
Anmatyerr Akatyerr, katyerr
Arrernte Merne Mwanyeme
(Solanum cleistogamum)
Merne awele-awele (Solanum ellipticum)
Akatyerre, katyerre
Kaytetye Arlkerre
Martu Wamurla
Pintupi Kampurarrpa, kanytjilyi
Pitjantjatjara Kampurarpa, Akudjura, Akatjira
Warlpiri Wanakiji, Yakajirri

Source: some of the information are quoted from Underground structures and mycorrhizal associations of Solanum centrale (the Australian bush tomato) by Angela Dennett (PDF)
Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Solanum
Species: S. centrale
Binomial name: Solanum centrale

Bush Tomato • Images

Solanum centrale © Tony Bean, Senior Botanist, Queensland Herbarium, Brisbane    

Bush Tomato - Other links

Bushfires and Bushtucker Aboriginal Plant Use in Central Australia • Author: Peter Latz
Desert Knowledge CRC
• Bush Resources: Opportunities for Aboriginal Enterprise in Central Australia (PDF 1.63 Mb) (A joint project between the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre and the Central Land Council), October 2005
Primary Industries and Resources SA
• Fact sheet No 8/03 (PDF 79 Kb)
Wikipedia • Australian desert raisin
Wikipedia • Solanum
Wildflowers and Plants of Inland Australia • Author: Anne Urban

Australian Herbs, Spices from the Vic Cherikoff and Dining Downunder Online Store
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