I found this book "Woman in the Wilderness" by Miriam Lancewood in the Hospice shop and swooped it up excitedly as I had seen her in a tv interview a couple of years back.
It's a fascinating tale of living for years in the wilderness of New Zealand, just coming out every 2-3 months for supplies, and how it has changed the author. She has spent that time with her husband, who is 30 years her senior. They spent much of it living in their tent - even through winter, in the snowy South Island and hunting for meat. She walks everywhere, even in winter, in sandals.
It made me realize that we have native plants in our back yard that we have never utilized. So began my research into kawakawa and manuka teas.
|Kawakawa plant. The caterpillar looking thing is the fruit.|
This plant is related to the Kava plant from the Pacific Islands, which is made into a sedative, anaesthetic and euphoriant drink.
Kawakawa does mildly have some of these properties and is/was used as per this excerpt from Wikipedia
The root, fruit, seeds and especially the leaves of the kawakawa plant were favourite medicinal remedies of the New Zealand Māori. In fact, the kawakawa is one of the only plants still used by the Maori people today. Externally, Kawa Kawa was used for healing cuts and wounds, as an ingredient in vapour baths, and also as an insect repellent. Internally, it was found to be effective as a blood purifier in cases of eczema, boils, cuts, wounds, rheumatism, neuralgia, ringworm, itching sore feet, and all forms of kidney and skin ailments. The leaves were chewed to alleviate a toothache. The bruised leaves drew pus from boils and skin infections. A drink made from the leaves helped stomach problems and rheumatics when rubbed on joints. The leaf, if dried and burnt is an insect repellent.
The name kawakawa in Maori refers to the bitter taste of the leaves.
Surprisingly, the tea is quite palatable, and the leaves can also be used in
cooking to add a peppery taste. For the tea, scrunch up 3-4 leaves per cup and
let them brew for 5 minutes.
I'm looking forward to trying the fruit in summer when it ripens.
|Manuka seedling in front of the trunks of the mature trees.|
This has been used as billy tea for centuries. Captain Cook used it for his crew
to help prevent scurvy. The leaves are high in antioxidants and vitamins, so I
was really hoping to like it. Apparently fresh leaves have more benefit and taste
than dried. We used a teaspoonful per cup and were aware that it would be very
pale, but not to brew it too long as it would be bitter. (And not to brew it too
strong as it was used as an emetic like that - ie can make you sick!) It was quite adelicate flavour, so I think my way to use it will be to replace the green tea that I
currently buyand mix with my favourite Earl Grey tea.
This is also a multi-use plant. We use it for firewood and garden stakes plus it is famous for Manuka honey.
This all might be not much use to my readers from other countries...but what do you have in your backyards that you've never tried, that maybe your indigenous people have known about for centuries?