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Gubinge: the Australian Indigenous Superfood and the highest natural source of Vitamin C on the planet

One day a while back, Bruno walked into the health food store in Broome. The store had some of Loving Earth’s Goji and Camu Camu raw chocolate bars, Camu Camu being a very high Vitamin C berry from the Peruvian Amazon. The woman working in the shop knew him and so she said “Hey Bruno! Check this out! These guys have this stuff from the Amazon that's real high in Vitamin C, but that Gubinge, it's much better, you should get him onto it!”. Bruno contacted us and we started a dialogue. LE founder Scott Fry went up there during the Gubinge harvest and had a great time…camping out on the land, picking Gubinge up in trees for hours, fishing and living off the local bush tucker...and it all went from there.

The Highest Source On The Planet

Gubinge is a bush plum. There's a lot of hype around potent plants coming out of the Amazon, Acai and so on, but Gubinge is a really powerful indigenous Australian superfood. It's the highest natural source of Vitamin C on the planet, and that's been verified. The species is called Terminalia Ferdinandiana, more popularly known as the Kakadu plum, and it grows in the Kakadu and the Kimberley. The Kimberley version however has tested higher than the Kakadu version for Vitamin C. In the Kimberley, this plant is known as Gubinge (pronounced ‘Gu’ as in ‘gull’, and ‘binge’ as in, well…binge). Up there though, it’s not being irrigated or cultivated using typical commercial horticultural techniques, which a number of operations in the Northern Territory are doing. Why does this matter? Essentially, those precious phytonutrients (the antioxidants within plants) are there to make the plant itself stronger. That means, if you pamper the plant too much, it doesn't need them! On the other hand, if that plant is in its natural environment and there's a certain level of environmental stress present, the plant needs to become stronger. Hey presto…a higher level of antioxidants.

The Gubinge Powder that we produce and market under the Nyul Nyul brand is a raw whole food and in terms of nutritional aspects, it's one of the only high Vitamin C products on the market that literally is a whole food. To make it we simply take the whole frozen fruit, dehydrate it at 40ºC for 16 hours and then mill it into a powder. In essence all we have done is take away the water: everything else is still there in the powder. The thing about whole food is that nature packages these things up in a way that makes them easy to absorb. Vitamin C is one important phytonutrient, and like most things, for it to be absorbed into the body there are a couple of other elements within the plant that really need to go along with it. These other things are also important to the overall benefit. The fact that this fruit is whole, in terms of a supplement, it's amazing. Not only is it the highest natural source of Vitamin C, but it also includes everything else your body needs to assimilate the Vitamin C. All the synthetic Vitamin C supplements and extracts, they're going to be a lot cheaper in terms of milligram for milligram. In terms of overall effectiveness however...they're incomparable. Two different worlds.

Back To The Land

Bruno is one of the Stolen Generation from the area north of Broome, near James Price Point, where they're planning on putting in the massive gas hub. He’s lived a traumatic life, taken away from his mother at birth by missionaries. Back then it was law that Aboriginal women had to give birth in hospital, so that their babies could immediately be taken and given to missionaries. Bruno's mother ran away and actually gave birth to him in the wilderness, adding to Bruno’s special connection with the land. Living on the mission, on the weekends he was allowed to go and spend time with the elders, but when he came back, if the missionaries found out that he'd been speaking language or engaging with his culture he was beaten. Yet they couldn't stop him. Bruno picked up enough traditional knowledge that together with his partner Marion, he was able to start reviving those traditional ways of taking care of the land. Gubinge grows up there in natural wild orchards, three or four trees together throughout the bush. Each year the fire comes through and destroys everything, so Bruno and his people began back-burning, clearing the dead wood to stop the fire coming through. They soon noticed that through this traditional landcare, the Gubinge trees started producing more fruit...

Each year Bruno and the Twin Lakes Cultural Park mob coordinate the harvest. The picking season goes from December through March. Depending on the weather, it can be as long as three months or as short as six weeks, and there are designated spots where people can pick from. Most of the harvesters are from Bruno's language group and the surrounding areas and people get paid by the kilo. That means, come Gubinge season, everyone gets out on the land and picks it, including the young fellas. It's a really good project because it's a high-value product and it's something that's growing wild, so there's a fair bit of it around and it's sustainable. It also give the young people a sense of achievement and a reason to get out on country. The other thing that Bruno does is work with people to show them how to care for the land throughout the rest of the year. People see what Bruno's achieved and then they say alright, we're going to do that as well. It's not just about the Gubinge: it's about the whole environment. If you're taking care of the land, the Gubinge will thrive...but so will everything else. Gubinge is their asset…it's benign, it’s sustainable and it supports both the environment and the community. The other main industry up there is mining, and that’s a whole other story.


Kimberley Bruno Gubinge{image - Bruno in the Kimberly Region}

It took us at Loving Earth a couple of years to really get the project going, since we needed to develop the infrastructure and figure out how we were going to process the fruit. Scott stayed in touch with Bruno, and when we finally got our commercial dehydrator and found a special grinding machine from India, we were in business. That was a couple of years after the initial contact, during which time we'd been working on the post-harvest infrastructure to collect, clean and pack the fruit into frozen storage. With everything in place to really get stuck into the project, Scott returned for harvest season two years after first contact...the difference was amazing. The traditional harvesting techniques were paying massive dividends, and the quality was incredible. We got the frozen fruit down here to Melbourne and figured out how to process it into a powder. We did some trials, got some tests done and found out that we were getting really high levels of Vitamin C. That's when we began commercialising it. We got our graphic designer to come up with a logo, Nyul Nuyl, which is the language group for Bruno's people, and this is the brand we have created for the community up there.

Organic Gubinge Powder{image - organic Gubinge Powder}


Bruno is also working on an ecotourism project called the Twin Lakes Cultural Park. There are a couple of architects working on setting up some beautiful ecofriendly accommodation structures on his land, with the idea being to have people spend time on country and learn about the traditional Aboriginal bush life. In many ways, the Gubinge project brings Scott's original concept of facilitating economic independence for indigenous communities back full circle. From India, through Mexico, back to Australia. Next week we'll be getting a bit deeper into the title of our series and taking a look at just exactly how Food Is Sacred. Take care and see you then!

NB after years of fighting Bruno Dann was awarded native title to Winiwal land In 2019

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