The kids and I spotted some Kawakawa at Cornwallis on Sunday, so we decided to collect some leaves to see if we could conjure up a Kawakawa tea. My son informed me that the best leaves are the ones with small holes due to being chewed on by caterpillars. On further enquiry it turns out that yes, the chewed ones are suggested to have more active compounds, released by the caterpillars munching.
Kawakawa is a New Zealand native with big, juicy looking heart shaped leaves. It prefers the warmer weather and grows mostly along the coastline of the North Island and the top of the South Island. Traditionally, Māori used Kawakawa as a tonic to help with digestive issues and revive the kidneys. Recordings also suggest it was used externally to heal wounds or skin infections, and thrown on the fire to deter mosquitoes.
We made our tea by picking three of the leaves we had collected, ripped them up, and put them in a pot of boiling water which we simmered for 10 mins. Funnily enough the kids weren’t so impressed by the peppery flavour, but I really liked it, maybe even enough to make it my new after dinner digestive! Most importantly though, I loved seeing the boys exploring, learning and trying new flavours found on mother nature’s table.