Ruby Saltbush (Enchylaena tomentosa)

Juicy, red berries of the Ruby Saltbush.
Juicy, red berries of the Ruby Saltbush.

Common names: Ruby Saltbush

Taxonomic name: Enchylaena tomentosa

Family: Amaranthaceae

Habitat: Mallee, woodland, coast

Form: Small shrub

Flowering Time: All year

Ngarrindjeri name: Paranghuni

Description and uses:

Ruby Saltbush (Enchylaena tomentosa) is one of the very common bushfoods that are available pretty well throughout the year. Their small, soft, succulent green leaves and bright red berries are a frequent sight on walks.

While the leaves can be eaten when boiled or raw in an emergency, there are better things to chew on. The tiny red berries are salty sweet, quite tasty, though there’s not a lot to them and they contain a seed that you’ll have to spit out. There are records of them soaked in water in other areas to make a sweetish drink.

Ruby Saltbush won’t give you a full meal, but the berries are quite tasty to snack on while walking.

To identify it, look for a sprawling shrub, around knee high. It will have fine, fleshy leaves that are covered in tiny hairs (that’s what the ‘tomentosa’ part of their name means). The leaves sometimes dry to black as the seasons progress. The ripe fruit is usually a translucent red berry but can be yellow, orange or purple too, often on the same bush.

Colours of Ruby Saltbush berries.
Colours of Ruby Saltbush berries.

A tiny, tiny Ruby Saltbush flower.
You’ll miss the tiny flowers if you’re not careful.