The gold rush in Australia saw many Chinese migrate to the country, with the Chinese population in Australia reaching around 40000 in the 1860s. Many brought with them vegetable seeds to grow near their camps and towards the late 19th century, the fruit and vegetable markets came to be dominated by Chinese growers (although not necessarily growing those of Chinese origin).

Which fruits and vegetables were introduced to Australia by Chinese migrants during the gold rush? Of those, which came to be grown commercially? How successful were attempts to sell these in cities and towns with lower concentrations of Chinese people?

  • I really wish I could answer this one, but the internet seems to just say approximately the 1870s for most the fruits and vegetables of Chinese cuisine; with further hybrid refinement in the early 20th century. But I have found statements that Chinese vegetable gardens (with or without new fauna species) were a roaring commercial venture from the 1880s to the 1930s. Oct 24, 2014 at 4:17
  • John Alloo's 1850s restaurant in main-street Ballarat would have been the first notable cross-ethnic exposure of Chinese cuisine; assuming other ethnicities crossed the threshold, as the English language shop title suggests. Oct 24, 2014 at 4:24
  • 1
    I found this fascinating local resource on the 19th century Australian Chinese community (site navigation broken): Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Doesn't list the specific fruits and vegetables grown though. Oct 24, 2014 at 23:59
  • Boch choi seems to be a suspicious vegetable, not sure about any fruit however maybe snake beans.
    – user22004
    Oct 25, 2016 at 6:46

1 Answer 1



Australia's food and health patterns are inextricably and increasingly linked with Asia. Indigenous Australians arrived in the continent via Asia and have linguistic connections with people who settled in south India; there was interaction and food trade between both South-East Asia and China and northern indigenous Australians over thousands of years. After European settlement in 1788, there have been several and increasing (apart from the period of the infamous White Australian Policy following the Colonial period and Independence, with Federation, in 1901) waves of Asian migration, notably during the gold rush (Chinese), the building of the overland Telegraph (Afghans), the Colombo Plan and Asian student education in Australia from the 1950s onwards (South-Eeast Asians), and with refugees (Vietnamese and mainland Chinese), and business (late twentieth century) and progressive family reunion.

Each wave has injected additional food cultural elements and caused a measure of health change for migrants and host citizens. Of principal advantage to Australia has been the progressive diversification of the food supply and associated health protection. This has increased food security and sustainability. The process of Australian eating patterns becoming Asianized is evident through market garden development (and the introduction of new foods), fresh food markets and groceries, restaurants and the development of household cooking skills (often taught by student boarders). Most of the diversification has been with grain (rice), legumes (soy), greens, root vegetables, and various 'exotic fruits'. Food acculturation with migration is generally bi-directional. Thus, for Asians in Australia, there has been a decrease in energy expenditure (and a lower plane of energy throughput), an increase in food energy density (through increased fat and sugary drink intakes), and a decrease in certain health protective foods (lentils, soy, greens) and beverages (tea). This sets the stage for 'eco-diseases'.

In a population probably genetically programmed (but modifiably) in utero to abdominal obesity, diabetes (type II and gestational) and cardiovascular disease, these conditions may be rapidly acquired on migration, along with certain cancers (breast, colo-rectal and prostate). Thus, whilst Asian migration to Australia has provided health opportunities for host citizens, there have been threats to migrant citizens in regard to nutrition-related health.

SOURCE: Asian migration to Australia: food and health consequences., Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2002;11 Suppl 3:S562-8. Full-text available (pdf).

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