Unless you live in or have visited a couple of fairly specific areas in Queensland, Australia it is unlikely that you have seen or even heard of a bunya pine.
It is the middle of January which means it is bunya nut season. It is certainly not the time to have a picnic under one of these trees as the cones can weigh several kilograms.
The bunya pines are indigenous to where we live on the Blackall Range, however, there are very few original specimens due to land clearing for the dairy industry in the late 1800s. We have one on the steep slope at the rear of our property so the falling cones roll down the hill to where they are easily accessible.
I had heard several cracks and thumps over the past week so I went looking for them and collected 4 cones today. The photo above shows the intact cone.
Once they are ripe and fall, the cones quickly split open and the segments containing the nuts separate.
These 3 cones in the wheelbarrow are in various stages of splitting. You can see the central core around which the segments are spiralled. Each segment contains a nut.
At this stage they still need to be boiled or roasted and then the hard protective shell removed to reveal the edible nut. There is a fair bit of work involved in getting from the fallen cone to edible nut stage. I have a bag of nuts for to be roasted or boiled which I will take for one of my work colleagues who is a real fan. I am not desperate to eat them but feel that I should utilise this free bounty of local produce. I am planning to prepare the nuts and then grind them and use to make pesto. In the meantime the crushed nuts can be stored in the freezer.
The bunya festival was and remains an important gathering for the local indigenous people.