When Linda Dipper asks people stopping by her market stall if they've tasted native Australian foods before, she knows, that most of the time, their answer will be no.
“I would say about 95 per cent of people I ask have never tried Australian natives,” says Dipper, the co-owner of Australian bush food company, Oz Tukka.
Linda and her partner Ray Kochel bought the Readhead-based business two years ago, and her existing passion for Indigenous foods has only blossomed since.
“I am so excited to share Australian natives. I cannot yell it loud enough, what this country has for too long ignored or, more than likely, not known about,” she says. “I feel it's my job to fix that - in the Newcastle Hunter Valley area at least.”
Linda has always had green thumb. it started with flowers and then developed into a love of permaculture. It was while doing a Land and Conservation course at Tocal College that she first discovered Australian bush food.
“Until 10 years ago I had very little knowledge of what was in our backyard and what our Indigenous people survived on for thousands of years,” she says.
Whilst on the hunt for Australian bush foods online, Oz Tukka appeared.
By chance, or as Linda believes fate, a friend happened to taking guitar lessons next door to the Oz Tukka factory in Redhead. The intense aroma of roasting wattleseed piqued his interest. He soon learned it was Oz Tukka where those great smells were coming from and what's more, the business was for sale. He phoned Dipper right away.
“The next day I had decided I was buying it, before my finance had even been approved,” she laughs.
The pair have a collection of contacts around the country who help them source native flora: a desert plant source in the Northern Territory, a pepperberry source in Tasmania, a lemon myrtle and Macadamia contact in Lismore, an artisan salt supplier in Victoria and a Kakadu plum grower in South Australia.
“Everything we use comes from the wild and is harvested by Indigenous communities,” Dipper says.
All the ingredients come in raw and are either roasted, ground, infused or bottled by Kochel on site at Redhead.
Oz Tukka sells spice grinders, spices and spice mixes, native infused oils, savoury and dessert dukkah and gluten free muffin mixes. Some of their most popular products include zesty lemon myrtle, roasted wattleseed with its chocolate and hazlenut notes, dried bush tomatoes, aniseed myrtle and pepperberries.
All products are preservative, gluten and additive free.
Dipper says owning Oz Tukka has opened her eyes to just how precious Indigenous knowledge is. “Not just their diet but their complex relationship with nature and knowledge of natural bush medicine. They really did get the balance right,” she says.