Native Food

So a previous post has got me wondering how many here have had any experience of native bush food? Has any body tried mamaku pith? Tawa berry fruit or seeds? Do you know what part of a tutu plant is a source of edible flavour for a bracken root patty and which parts will kill you? Do you know how to catch an eel? Can you pick a good fiddle head to eat? Do you know when puha or watercress is past it's best by date? Have you any idea how to catch a possum? There is a legendary figure in early New Zealand tramping called Joe Gibb. he built some of the first purpose built tramping huts in New Zealand, like field and kime huts. By hand from pit sawn timber. He spent along time living in an early incantation of smith creek shelter. He was famous for having boundless energy and stopping only to knock back a few tawa berries. His venison stew was famous also though surprisingly it was usually possum meat as the protein source. What is your knowledge of endemic and introduced edible sources of flora and fauna?
whats a fiddle head? I have tasted bracken root and its not that bad and also the tips of the vine that grows everywhere making an inpenetatable tangle but I dont know its name
It's the fresh growth of certain edible ferns. They resemble the heads of a violin. I have taught my boys all the edible foods of the forests of tane and the seas of tangaroa. We have a garden that displays many of the edible and medicinal plants of the New Zealand bush. It's very important for me to retain and pass on this knowledge.
Oh, Gaiters. Lucky us! Free food is a subject I'm dearly interested in. I was once shown around some native bush by a Maori bushman near Mt Maungatautari. He was planning to fell a nikau palm so I got to sample 'millionaire's salad'. He showed me some harore and said, "this is harore. It's edible". I filed that away and when I recognised it in Fiordland, I said to my mate, "this is harore, it's edible". We grabbed some and cooked it up with mushroom soup (worms and all). Our first fresh food in 6 weeks. Later on, I found out that harore was the generic term for fungi, not that small golden mushroom that grew on rotten rata. I do keep my eyes peeled in the bush. Andrew Crowe has a book on NZ edible plants and I try to remember stuff from it.
I've tried rimu and supplejack berries out of curiosity. Wasn't particularly keen on the taste of either of them - the rimu berries tasted like turps. Have also munched on kawakawa leaves which have quite a peppery taste. Oh, and the wood ear fungi which grows on dead trees. I was tramping with a Chinese friend who was thrilled to find some growing beside the track. We collected it and it was added to a stir-fry later. A few years ago I read Andrew Crowe's edible plants book but don't remember much. It would be good knowledge to have though.
1 deleted post from Honora
The Maori used to make a kind of jelly out of tutu berries. But of course, they had slaves to taste-test it. If they stuffed up and got any seeds in there..... I won't touch tutu. Too much of a crap-shoot. It killed an elephant in a matter of hours! There's a fuschia tree which has just stopped flowering and is fruiting. Don't eat the green ones. But the purple ones are ripe, and the ripest taste like a grape/rose combo. Of course, there's always koro. Just like walnuts! Kawakawa is very peppery; nice as a spice additive. And whilst the supplejack shoots taste just like green beans (snap them off where they want to snap, like asparagus), the nutritional value is minimal, so you wouldn't waste a lot of energy finding it. I don't think I'd tackle a nikau unless I had to. Good looking tree to knock out for a meal.... In Australia, I'd built a pretty good knowledge of bush foods and medicines. Here in NZ, I'm just an infant, but always keen to learn more.
Also need to remember that all Native plants are protected in National Parks so should not be eating them. Even in forest parks the advice "take only photos, leave only footprints" should apply when it comes to interacting with natives. I would look very dimly on anyone who would cut down a wild cabbage tree or Nikau just for food. Just man up and carry enough supplies with you. The conservation estate is not a garden. A few people doing it would not do any harm, but if the practice becomes widespread we could see certain species decimated along popular walkways and around huts. In saying that, there are quite a few introduced plants which can be nibbled on such as Rose Hips, Black Berries, Gooseberries, Currants, Watercress, Silverbeets plus game such as rabbits, hares, possum, trout.
Cabbage tree roots cooked in an umu apparently taste like ginger bread and were so esteemed that they were used in trade. There is an archeological site by the Dart River where there were industrial scale multiple umu for cabbage tree root processing.

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Forum Food
Started by Gaiters
On 21 January 2016
Replies 7
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