Foraging in the Bay of Plenty
Written by Maketū-based sisters and MasterChefs, Kasey & Kārena Bird
Kasey and I love to use foraged ingredients in our food, and Te Moananui ā Toi | the coastal Bay of Plenty has an abundance to offer. Foraging for these indigenous ingredients is not only about the flavours, but also about embracing the rich tapestry of Māori culture and its deep connection to the whenua. It’s an opportunity to honour the traditions passed down by our ancestors whilst celebrating the nourishing gifts provided by Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother.
First on our foraging adventure is kawakawa. Kawakawa holds a special place in Māori tradition, and is cherished for its medicinal qualities and culinary prowess. Kawakawa is prolific in the Bay and you can spot it quite easily by searching for its heart-shaped leaves, often featuring large holes, (as the result of insect feeding, especially kawakawa looper moth larvae - Cleora scriptaria). Brew it into a soothing tea, infuse it into oils, or sprinkle its leaves into dishes to unlock its natural wonders.
We love to collect ureure, also known as samphire or sea asparagus. Picture yourself strolling along sandy beaches and marshy shores, plucking these vibrant green stalks which burst with the essence of the sea. Crunchy, salty, and oh-so-delicious, ureure adds a touch of the coast to salads, pickles, or can simply be enjoyed as a crisp and refreshing snack.
Another winter delicacy is the pūhā plant. While its leaves are available year-round, they thrive during the cooler months. Packed with nutrients, pūhā leaves offer a slightly bitter taste that adds depth to dishes. They can be blanched, sautéed, or used in soups and stews, imparting a distinct flavour that warms both body and soul. Pūhā can often be found in grassy areas and on the edge of walking tracks. We suggest taking a walk down to one of the bush tracks in the Bay of Plenty.
So, grab your baskets, don your walking shoes, and let us embark on a journey of Māori kai!
Warning: Make sure you only forage on land that you have permission to explore. You also need to be
conscious that pesticide spray may have been used on the roadside.