SEP 11, 2020 11:43 AM PDT

Indigenous fermentation processes require complex chemical reactions

A study published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports uncovers the complex chemical processes behind aboriginal fermentation processes. The work, which looks into the microbial communities associated with the natural fermentation of sap from the Tasmanian cider gum, Eucalyptus gunnii, comes from researchers at the University of Adelaide and the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI).  

Photo: Pixabay

The cider gum is an iconic Tasmanian species native to the Central Plateau of Tasmania. The fermented drink made from its sap is called way-a-linah by the Tasmanian Palawa people.

"Cider gums produce a sweet sap that was collected by Aboriginal people to produce a mildly alcoholic beverage," says lead author Dr. Cristian Varela, Principal Research Scientist with the AWRI. "To the best of our knowledge, the microorganisms responsible for this traditional Australian fermentation have never been investigated or identified."

In order to address this curiosity, a collaboration of AWRI, Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, and Tasmanian Land Conservancy scientists tapped sap from the cider gums in order to analyze the bacterial and fungal communities living in it.

Using DNA sequencing, the team identified several classifications of bacteria and fungi that had not ever before been documented. “Phylotyping also revealed several fungal sequences which do not match known fungal genomes suggesting novel yeast species,” write the authors.

Research leader Professor Vladimir Jiranek, Professor of Oenology with the University's School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, comments on the scientific and cultural implications of this study, explaining:

"The wider community is not typically aware of these historic traditions. This work shines a light on these practices and the cultural significance of these unique fermentations. It also allows us to identify new strains, or species, of yeast and bacteria from the fermentations that are unique to Australia. Further work will characterize single microorganisms that have been isolated and grown from the cider gum."

"We are particularly interested in their fermentative abilities, their potential flavor impacts, how they've adapted to the cider gum environment and the possible symbiotic relationship they have with the trees. We look forward to continuing our work with relevant Aboriginal communities in order to understand these and other processes, and help revive lost practices or perhaps develop new ones from these."

Sources: Scientific Reports, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
MAY 26, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Turning bullfrog skin into human bones - as easy as....?
MAY 26, 2021
Turning bullfrog skin into human bones - as easy as....?
In an effort to support the growth of the circular economy, researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore ...
JUN 07, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Are compostable batteries on the horizon?
JUN 07, 2021
Are compostable batteries on the horizon?
Biodegradable batteries represent the holy grail of our current technological obstacles to achieving the transition to a ...
JUN 12, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
The next bioplastic: plant-based spider silk
JUN 12, 2021
The next bioplastic: plant-based spider silk
A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge has designed and developed a new plastic alternative made from pl ...
JUN 21, 2021
Microbiology
In a Blow to Enzyme Latch Theory, Soil Microbes Break Down Polyphenols
JUN 21, 2021
In a Blow to Enzyme Latch Theory, Soil Microbes Break Down Polyphenols
Microbes have many connections to humans. Gut microbes have a major influence on our health. For example, when we eat fr ...
JUN 28, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
A full charge in 5 minutes? Sign me up!
JUN 28, 2021
A full charge in 5 minutes? Sign me up!
A breakthrough study published in Nature describes a novel technique that can be used to peek inside lithium-ion batteri ...
AUG 11, 2021
Earth & The Environment
"Code Red:" Inside the IPCC's Newest Climate Report
AUG 11, 2021
"Code Red:" Inside the IPCC's Newest Climate Report
On Monday, August 9th, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first of their newest set of cl ...
Loading Comments...