BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 408

BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 408


IELTS Academic Reading Test



Wild Foods of Australia

Over 120 years ago, the English botanist J. D. Hooker, writing of Australian edible plants, suggested that many of them were ‘eatable but not worth eating’. Nevertheless, the Australian flora, together with the fauna, supported the Aboriginal people well before the arrival of Europeans. The Aborigines were not farmers and were wholly dependent for life on the wild products around them. They learned to eat, often after treatment, a wide variety of plants.

The conquering Europeans displaced the Aborigines, killing many, driving others from their traditional tribal lands, and eventually settling many of the tribal remnants on government reserves, where flour and beef replaced nardoo and wallaby as staple foods. And so, gradually, the vast store of knowledge, accumulated over thousands of years, fell into disuse. Much was lost.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

However, a few European men took an intelligent and even respectful interest in the people who were being displaced. Explorers, missionaries, botanists, naturalists and government officials observed, recorded and. fortunately in some cases, published. Today, we can draw on these publications to form the main basis of our knowledge of the edible, natural products of Australia. The picture is no doubt mostly incomplete. We can only speculate on the number of edible plants on which no observation was recorded.

Not all our information on the subject comes from the Aborigines. Times were hard in the early days of European settlement, and traditional foods were often in short supply or impossibly expensive for a pioneer trying to establish a farm in the bush. And so necessity led to experimentation, just as it must have done for the Aborigines, and experimentation led to some lucky results. So far as is known, the Aborigines made no use of Leptospermum or Dodonaea as food plants, yet the early settlers found that one could be used as a substitute for tea and the other for hops.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

These plants are not closely related to the species they replaced, so their use was not based on botanical observation. Probably some experiments had less happy endings; L. J. Webb has used the expression eat, die and learn in connection with the Aboriginal experimentation, but it was the successful attempts that became widely known. It is possible that the edibility of some native plants used by the Aborigines was discovered independently by the European settlers or their descendants.

Explorers making long expeditions found it impossible to carry sufficient food for the whole journey and were forced to rely, in part, on food that they could find on the way. Still another source of information comes from the practice in other countries. There are many species from northern Australia which occur also in Southeast Asia, where they are used for food.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

In general, those Aborigines living in the dry inland areas were largely dependent for their vegetable foods on seed such as those of grasses, acacias and eucalypts. They ground these seeds between flat stones to make a coarse flour. Tribes on the coast, and particularly those in the vicinity of coastal rainforests, had a more varied vegetable diet with a higher proportion of fruits and tubers.

Some of the coastal plants, even if they had grown inland, probably would have been unavailable as food since they required prolonged washing or soaking to render them non-poisonous; many of the inland tribes could not obtain water in the quantities necessary for such treatment. There was also considerable variation in the edible plants available to Aborigines in different latitudes. In general, the people who lived in the moist tropical areas enjoyed a much greater variety, than those in the southern part of Australia.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

With all the hundreds of plant species used for food by the Australian Aborigines, it is perhaps surprising that only one, the Queensland nut, has entered into commercial cultivation as a food plant. The reason for this probably does not lie with an intrinsic lack of potential in Australian flora, but rather with the lack of exploitation of this potential.

In Europe and Asia, for example, the main food plants have had the benefit of many centuries of selection and hybridisation, which has led to the production of forms vastly superior to those in the wild. Before the Europeans came, the Aborigines practised no agriculture and so there was no opportunity for such improvement; either deliberate or unconscious, in the quality of the edible plants.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Since 1788, there has, of course, been opportunity for selection of Australian food plants which might have led to the production of varieties that were worth cultivating. But Australian plants have probably ‘missed the bus’. Food plants from other regions were already so far in advance after a long tradition of cultivation that it seemed hardly worth starting work on Australian species.

Undoubtedly, the native raspberry, for example, could, with suitable selection and breeding programs, be made to yield a highclass fruit; but Australians already enjoy good raspberries from other areas of the world and unless some dedicated amateur plant breeder takes up the task, the Australian raspberries are likely to remain unimproved.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

And so, today, as the choice of which food plants to cultivate in Australia has been largely decided, and as there is little chance of being lost for long periods in the bush. Our interest in the subject of Australian food plants tends to relate to natural history rather than to practical necessity.

Questions 1-7

Do the following statements reflect the claims of the writer in the reading passage?

In boxes 1 – 7 write:

YES – if the statement reflects the writer’s claims

NO – if the statement contradicts the writer

NOT GIVEN – if there is no information about this in the passage

IELTS Academic Reading Test

(1) Most of the pre-European Aboriginal knowledge of wild foods has been recovered.

(2) There were few food plants unknown to pre-European Aborigines.

(3) Europeans learned all of what they knew of edible wild plants from Aborigines.

(4) Dodonaea is an example of a plant used for food by both pre-European Aborigines and European settlers.

(5) Some Australian food plants are botanically related to plants outside Australia.

(6) Pre-European Aboriginal tribes closer to the coast had access to a greater variety of food plants than tribes further inland.

(7) Some species of coastal food plants were also found inland.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Questions 8 – 10

Choose the appropriate letters (A-D) and write them in boxes 8-10 on your answer sheet.

(8) Wallaby meat…

[A] was regularly eaten by Aborigines before European settlement.

[B] was given by Aborigines in exchange for foods such as flour.

[C] was a staple food on government reserves.

[D] was produced on farms before European settlement.

(9) Experimentation with wild plants …

[A] depended largely on botanical observation.

[B] was unavoidable for early settlers in all parts of Australia.

[C] led Aborigines to adopt Leptospermum as a food plant.

[D] sometimes had unfortunate results for Aborigines.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

(10) Wild plant used by Aborigines …

[A] was limited to dry regions.

[B] was restricted to seed.

[C] sometimes required the use of tools.

[D] was more prevalent in the southern part of Australia.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Questions 11 -13

Choose ONE or TWO words from the passage for each answer.

Despite the large numbers of wild plants that could be used for food, only one, the … (11) … is being grown as a cash crop. Other edible plants in Australia, however much potential they have for cultivation, had not gone through the lengthy process of… (12) … that would allow their exploitation, because Aborigines were not farmers. Thus species such as the … (13)…, which would be an agricultural success had it not had to compete with established European varieties at the time of European settlement, are of no commercial value.

IELTS Academic Reading Test


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BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 408

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IELTS Academic Reading Test


1. No

2. Not Given

3. No

4. No

5. Yes

6. Yes

7. Not Given

8. A

9. D

10. C

11. Queensland nut

12. Selection

13. Native raspberry

IELTS Academic Reading Test

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