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Foraging for Flavour

New Zealands native bush offers the culinary adventurer a treasure trove of ingredients.  Here are a few to look out for.


Kawakawa has a peppery flavour with both ginger and vanilla notes and can be added to both sweet and savoury dishes. Use as you would basil or fry in oil as you would sage. Infuse oil for a peppery kick, or creams and milk to make a delicious dessert. You can create an even more intense flavour or aroma by making an alcohol infusion using dried peppercorns from kawakawa fruit.


Known as the New Zealand pepper tree, horopito has a sweet fragrance as well as a spicy, citrusy flavour. Use where you would pepper or look for dishes where pepper is the hero and replace with horopito. It makes a wonderful tea as well as a great addition to sauces and dressings.


Found in a number of traditional Māori recipes, karengo is a type of edible seaweed traditionally harvested by South Island Māori. Closely related to Japanese nori, use it as a seasoning, as a textural garnish or in soups and broths.


These edible fern fronds, known as bush asparagus, are pale green with brown speckles. Picked before the leaves unfold, the fronds add a unique 'forest' flavour to dishes.

Note Most of NZ’s wild fern varieties that grow in our native bush are carcinogenic - of 312 different varieties, only seven varieties are edible.


Pūhā, or puwha is also known as sow thistle or milk thistle.  It’s famous use in NZ is Pork and Pūhā, a boil up loved by many.  The pūhā acts much like spinach when cooked and Captain Cook is reported to use it to help prevent scurvy on his crew.  Eat raw or cooked it has a slight bitter taste. Reduce this by rubbing the pūhā plants together (vigorously) under running water.


Kōwhitiwhiti (watercress) or watercress grows on the edge of freshwater rivers and creeks around New Zealand and most recently commercially using hydroponics. Eaten raw or cooked, it has a mild mustard flavour.


Be it the distinct honey it produces, or the flavour imparted from the wood chips when used to smoke food Mānuka is a flavourful of complexities, just like our land.   Originally named 'tea tree' by Captain James Cook and English botanist Joseph Banks when they found it in Mercury Bay in 1769.


Flax Seeds have a multitude of uses including being turned into an oil high in Omega 3 and 9 with six essential fatty acids.  The seeds themselves act similarly to the very on trend chia but with an earthy, nutty flavour.

Huhu grubs

Huhu grubs are the larvae of the Huhu beetle and were traditional Māori delicacy. Look for fallen logs and see if you can discover these tiny treasures.  When eaten raw the grubs taste like peanut butter and when cooked (they can be fried without oil because of their high fat content) they taste like buttery chicken.