Nitraria billardierei or ‘Salty Grapes’ as they are called locally are a prodigious fruiter at this time of the year (late Feb). It only takes minutes to harvest a couple of kilos.
These bushes grow to around two metres tall, but are more often chest height and sprawling over a few square metres.
Nitre bushes grow in tough conditions along the coast, in salty soil and even salty clay pans. From that toughness comes a real treat.
The fruit – the Salty Grapes are just as the common name says – grape like in size and texture. They have a sweet taste on the first bite, then the saltiness kicks in.
The grapes vary from bush to bush and even on the same bush. They can be golden, purple or red and make a delightfully bright mix on the plate.
The traditional owners of the land (and me) eat them raw, straight from the plant. European settlers soon found that they can be dried or, even better, make a tasty jam.
At this time of year, they are easy to identify. At other times, look for clusters of leaves along sprawling stems on a grey – green bush up to 2 metres tall on a plant that is slightly hairy all over, even the fruit.
On a separate trip, further up the coast, we found olive and deep purple coloured fruits…