The beginning of Warltati, the Kaurna season for January to March (ish) is the time for lots of local wattle seeds to ripen here on the Tarntanyangga (Adelaide) plains.
One of our favourites is the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) because there are so many growing in our neighbourhood, it has delicious seeds, and the pods separate from the seeds with minimal effort, unlike some other species. You can't collect seed in National Parks or Reserves, so only collect from private property with the steward's permission.
Golden Wattle is our national floral emblem, with stunning yellow pompom flowers in Wirltuti (Spring) that turn into long pods, first green, then a dry crispy brown. The pods resemblance to peas is no coincidence - the trees belong to the Fabaceae family just like peas, beans, and lentils, which all have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria on their roots so are great for soil improvement. One way to tell pycnantha from other wattles are the sickle-shaped leaves (which are actually modified stems called phyllodes).
The easiest way to pick the pods is to carry a bucket or large bowl with one hand and strip the pods off with the other. We are always deliberately messy with this stage, letting some drop on the ground, as ants and other animals utilise the seeds for food. We also leave plenty of pods still on the tree - a good rule of thumb is to take no more than 10-20%.
Once we've collected as many as we'd like, we scrunch and smash the pods with our hands or a piece of wood in the bucket. This dislodges most of the seed from the pods. The seed tends to drop down to the bottom, so we scoop and throw the mostly empty pods somewhere we'd like Golden Wattles to grow in the future. Then we put the whole lot in a colander to try to separate the seeds away from everything else.
With a mixture of sieving, winnowing, and just picking out the bits we don't want, we get the seeds fairly clean. It's a good idea to let them air dry for at least a few days before putting in a glass jar for storage.
Wattle seeds are a great source of potassium, calcium, iron and zinc, as well as containing lots of carbohydrates, protein and fat. They have a deliciously nutty flavour that is quite particular to them, and a little goes a long way. We use them when we make bread, beer, and as a caffeine-free coffee substitute sometimes. One key step before using them is to roast them, which we do in a dry frying pan, and then grind them in a coffee or spice grinder, as they are incredibly hard.
If you'd rather purchase wattle seed than harvest it, please try to find a local First Nations business to buy from. Currently less than 2% of bush foods are sold by Aboriginal Peoples, so it is great to support those businesses when possible.