The striking blue berries caught my eye when walking along the path at Booyong recently. They are the berries of the edible Dianella Blue Flax Lily (Dianella caerulea).
Growing – A hardy clumping perennial plant that grows up to one metre high and wide, they are found throughout the rainforest at Booyong. In gardens they are commonly grown to stabilise soils such as sand and is a great border plant. Dianella can be grown in full sun or shade, preferring well-drained soil but can withstand damp periods and require little to no maintenance.
Pruning – As they grow by rhizome Dianella can be cut back vigorously after flowering and they will continue to regrow.
Companion Planting – The berries are very attractive to native animals and seed eating birds like lorikeets.
Harvest – Berries can be harvested late Summer when ripe.
The strong fibrous leaves have been used to weave into baskets and nets and the berries were also used by colonial Australians to make blue dye.
Eating – The berries are edible and said to have a sweet-tart and nutty flavour and each berry has shiny black seeds inside. It is recommended to eat only a couple at each time.
They can be used as a substitute for berries in desserts, jams or made into syrup to go on icecream. Berries can also be used to make a syrup and added to cocktails containing gin, vodka or white rum.
The rhizomes can be pounded and roasted for eating. According to Aboriginal Bush foods the South Australian Aboriginal people would boil the leaves to make a tea.
There are approximately 15 species of Dianella and some are poisonous so as always please be extremely careful when foraging.