In Western Australia we have a new story that is very old. It concerns the use of WA Sandalwood (Santalum Spicatum). Before European settlers arrived in Western Australia the indigenous people used the sandalwood fruit and nuts extensively for food and medicine. In the 1800s the settlers exported the stems and roots of S.Spicatum to India and China for their ceremonial use. In the late 1800s in WA the value of the export of this sandalwood oil and wood exceeded that of all other exports. To a small extent this kind of export continues.
However the development of S.Spicatum ‘orchards by Connie and Marty Winch-Buist on their 40 hectare property east of York at Greenhills in Western Australia is reviving the indigenous food culture of these nuts.
The Sandalwood tree requires host trees for healthy growth; these hosts provide extra water and nutrients to the sandalwood.
For Connie and Marty their journey with the sandalwood tree began after buying their property in 2005 and establishing their initial planting of 2 hectares of host trees in 2007. In 2008 they planted their first sandalwood seeds and with other plantings they now have 10 hectares of WA Sandalwood on their 40 hectare property. In 2011 Marty and Connie decided to commence their new nut journey to confirm that WA Sandalwood nuts can be used in the domestic food market. After many trials and cooking processes they established their WA Sandalwood Nut food business. They now grow, harvest, process, package and sell a range of Sandalwood nut food products. Among the products so far developed are the roasted nuts, a dukkah and a chocolate covered nut.
During their journey they learnt about the Woylie (Brush Tailed Bettong) and the importance of the Woylie to the historic distribution of the native Sandalwood tree. The Woylies would scatter and hoard nuts like squirrels, burying them and forgetting about them, so that the seeds germinated and the trees regenerated naturally. The Woylie is listed as a critically endangered native animal and there is a captive breeding program at Kanyana where Connie and Marty are donating their Sandalwood nuts.