What are Wattle Seeds?

T. Alaine
T. Alaine

Wattle seeds are the edible seeds of certain varieties of Australian acacia trees. While many acacia tree seeds are poisonous, some wattle seed pods are not and can be processed and consumed in a variety of ways. The seeds are mostly flavorless raw or steamed, but when roasted and ground they produce a versatile spice that boasts flavors reminiscent of coffee, chocolate, and hazelnut. This spice can be used in the flavoring of both sweet and savory dishes.

Early uses for wattle seeds were discovered by Australian Aborigines, who either consumed the seed-containing pods raw or dried the seeds and ground them up into a flour-like substance for baking. The discovery that wattle seeds could be roasted, ground, and used similarly to other spices created new avenues for their use. In spice form, wattle seeds are generally more expensive than other varieties because of the labor intensive process of harvesting and processing them. In their recipes, chefs generally use ground wattle seed or a liquid extract made by steeping the grounds in warm liquid.

In cooking, the wattle seed can be used to add flavor to sweet dishes such as dessert sauces and ice creams, or to savory dishes such as meat or fish courses. The flavor of the wattle seed is rich and robust, and is often compared to the flavor notes of coffee, chocolate, or hazelnut. Accordingly, wattle seeds can be used in manners similar to these other flavorings. Wattle seed grounds can be used in seasonings and marinades, infused into sauces, or brewed into beverages. The fact that the flavors of the wattle seed lend themselves so well to a wide variety of sweet or savory dishes makes this spice very versatile.

Nutritionally speaking, the wattle seed is valued for being high in protein and carbohydrates, which is slightly less relevant outside of a hunter-gatherer society, where wattle seeds are generally used as an accent to cuisine as opposed to a primary means of sustenance. Additionally, wattle seeds are considered to have a low glycemic index, making this spice suitable for a diabetic diet.

Acacia trees are abundant in Australia, but it is important to remember when harvesting wattle seeds that not all varieties are edible. It is necessary to make very sure that, if picking the wattle seed pods personally, one knows precisely which variety is being consumed in order to avoid poisoning. Outside of the indigenous regions where the seed is more readily available, it is possible to purchase roasted, ground wattle seeds over the internet.

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