Monday, January 12, 2009

Traditional Maori Kai

I have been chatting with Jo asking for her advice and knowledge  on Maori plants. I have always been interested in the puha.  I wrote about this veg that grows in the wild in my short story "Nadine" and my Book " Mail order Bride." I have eaten it in a hangi, but I was hesitant to find some myself and cook it as the water engineer is very particular about poisonious food.

Taking up jo's advice, I google searched for puha and then went to my garden. The garden is full of yellow flowers, and I still aren't certain if I have puha or dandelion. I did once, pick some and took it to V, a Maori colleague who was affirmative, but I only found a stalk, not exactly enough for the pot. Now with all the flowers, I guess the leaves are too stringy to eat.
What do you think?
Then I read this article.  By the way, Kai means food.
takumaara has left a new comment on your post "Little Daisy":

am aware they are annuals which mean they complete their life cycle in a year but I've known puha to be eaten all year round. The way I tell the difference in the leaves is that the puha leaves are a lot more bushier and they grow up the stem whereas the dandelion seem to grow down low and the flower sprouts up from the leaves. There are some good photos online if you do a google search.

Hope that helps,
Jo :-)
check out my magic garden blog at or my other two blogs at: and
Traditional Maori kai may help in fight against cancer 

By Errol Kiong

Puha is more than just good kai - it could help to fight cancer. 

Otago and Auckland University researchers have found traditional Maori food plants rival some European "wonder" foods for goodness. 

The commonly eaten puha was found to have more than three times the antioxidant level of blueberries, but some less frequently eaten items, such as the fruit of the swamp maire (maire tawake), had up to 18 times more. 

Blueberries are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods in the Western diet. Higher intakes of certain antioxidants lower the incidence of certain cancers, which may help to explain why pre-European Maori appear to have low levels of non-infectious diseases such as cancer. 

But researchers warn against rushing out to obtain these plants as the study did not look into the body's ability to absorb these antioxidants. 

"This is only a preliminary study," said Associate Professor Kevin Gould from Otago's botany department. 

"What we haven't done is gone the subsequent steps, which are to show whether it would be effective inside the human body." In some cases, high levels might even be harmful, he said. 

His and Auckland University Professor Lynn Ferguson's study, published in the New Zealand Journal of Botany, tested 17 indigenous and introduced plant species and found eight had considerably higher levels of antioxidants than blueberries. 

"The thing that was so exciting about these data was that they were so unexpectedly high in antioxidants. Most people think of blueberries and blackberries as being the kings of the antioxidant world." 

Of the eight, only puha is still widely eaten. But swamp maire fruit, titoki berries and rewarewa (New Zealand honeysuckle) flowers all had higher antioxidant levels than puha. 

Of the 17 food plants studied, only puha, pikopiko (common shield fern fronds) and the Maori potato are commercially sold as foods, being most easily found in fresh produce markets. Rewarewa honey can also be bought. 

Health foods 

Indigenous foods high in antioxidants include:
* Swamp maire fruit.
* Titoki berries.
* Rewarewa (NZ honeysuckle) flowers.
* Puha.

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