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Kawakawa Berries

~ Kawakawa Berries ~
For years I didn’t understand why the luscious Kawakawa at the end of my garden only produced green berries, which never ripened to orange. In the bush I would find plump, juicy, sweet orange berries, whilst mine remained green. That was until my Rongoa teacher (Donna Kerridge) explained that the male plants produce green berries, whilst the female plants produce orange berries (when ripe). So I have a male Kawakawa...
The male berries (technically flowers) stand upright, quite skinny and small, whilst the female berries also point upwards, but are shorter and fatter...
The Kawakawa tree is related to Pepper, and the whole plant has a unique peppery taste. When my kids were toddlers they didn’t like the taste of black pepper, but they loved fresh green kawakawa berries sliced onto their meals. You can chop the green berries and sprinkle over your food or add to sauces to create a really interesting flavor. I tried once harvesting my green berries, dehydrating, powdering and storing for use throughout the year, but to be honest the flavor diminished so much that I don’t think it was worth the effort. They taste much better fresh.
Pictured here are unripe female berries which my friend picked whilst we were camping offgrid. We sliced these onto a salad that we made from wild hangehange leaves. It’s always so good to eat fresh & tasty food when you’re camping!
The female berries, when fully ripe are plump & juicy. I’ve heard many foragers tell of making sauces, jams and chutneys with the orange berries, but to be honest I feel that the berries are our native birds food. The birds already have to compete with possums, I don’t think they need humans stripping berries out of the forest too, so I just nibble a berry or two on bushwalks for the unique experience.
Kawakawa grows all over the North Island of NZ in coastal regions (you won’t find it at high altitude), and prefers the shade.
Yes the Holey leaves are the best, let’s get to those stories in another post!
There is so much to say about Kawakawa, an incredible native healing plant of New Zealand. More on that another time. In saying that, there are so many wonderful Rongoa practitioners in New Zealand who are able to thoroughly teach the appropriate tikanga involved in preparing effective Rongoa. This is a really important part of the process and not to be underestimated.
If you’re interested in learning about the medicinal properties of our native plants, please do study alongside your local Rongoa practitioner, I’m sure you won’t regret it.
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P.s Kawakawa is covered in depth in my online foraging course which is currently on offer with $100off, sign up now: