Friday, October 17, 2008

Kawakawa (Macropiper excelsum)

Kawakawa leaves bring delicious flavours to both sweet and savoury dishes. Choose the leaves that have been eaten by bugs.

Kawakawa has various powerful medicinal properties. It contains painkilling compounds, and is a mild sedative. It belongs to the same family as kava and black pepper.

Update 31 January:
Round Wellington the little orange fruits on the female trees are ripening. The sweet pulp tastes passionfruity, and the seeds are quite hot (like black pepper, rather than chilli).

They ripen to some extent off the bush. Don't pick the completely green ones - they won't ripen well. But if they're starting to blush orange, they'll complete their ripening quite easily sitting on your shelf or table or windowsill.

I'm not sure exactly how long they keep for, but last week I picked some on a Monday afternoon and they were still good by late Thursday night.

Kawakawa links:
Chocolate-coated kawakawa berry recipe
Kawakawa honey ice cream recipe
Maori medicine
Charles Royal
Bushman's friend
Google Images


Ruth said...

We made some tea a few years ago with the kawakawa leaves. It was quite sedating!! Kind of similar to kava??

Gillybean said...

Do you know of any lore relating to to the side of the tree to collect Kawa kawa leaves from or the best time of the year? I find them very useful in herbal salves but have been told Maori harvested from a particular side of the tree/bush and I think to do so would probably improve the the healing qualities even more. Are you doing herbal training? I have done an introductory course but would like to do a more comprehensive one can you reccomend one, correspondence preferably?

Johanna Knox said...

Hi Gillybean - I have only recently started a herbal course, and have finished one unit, and stalled in the middle of the second unit - life has suddenly got too busy!!

Where did you do your course? I've been doing the International College of Herbal Medicine one - and highly recommend them.

I looked at a few different ones and liked this one best. It felt somehow realest.

I'm sure I remember reading that it is best to harvest kawakawa from a bush that gets morning sun - but could be misremembering. I'm afraid I just test different bushes, by taking a leaf, crushing and sniffing - and picking the leaves I like the smell of best!

Aaron Compton said...

why choose the leaves that have been eaten by bugs?

Johanna Knox said...

Hi Aaron - actually I'm not sure of the exact reasons! It's customary Maori knowledge, and I'd like to find out more. I've read that those leaves contain more of the medicinal properties - i.e. the bugs go for the same things that people do ... (or they go for things that go hand in hand with what people want from the plant).