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Kawakawa (macropiper excelsum)

Updated: May 21, 2021

Under-utilised Ingredients for Innovation: Kawakawa (macropiper excelsum)

in Europe, this is a rather unknown New Zealand shrub is growing wild in many forests of the main islands and is mostly known as Maori basil or Maori pepper tree, due to the peppery and slightly herbaceous taste of its leaves.

The leaves are relatively big and heart-shaped and can be picked throughout the whole year. Traditionally just the leaves of the east-side of the shrub and just the leaves with holes from caterpillars are picked, as Maoris believe that the caterpillars know best when the leaves are just right in taste and medicinal strength.

The leaves are traditionally served as tea, which is known for being very refreshing, rejuvenating and uplifting improve energy and stamina. That’s why they were also used by early colonialist as a substitute for black tea when tea imports weren't available.

Next, to its refreshing value, it also helps to reduce inflammation and reduce cramping, spasm, bloating and digestive pain. Furthermore, also Anti-microbial effects are described, which makes the leaves also interesting as a natural food preservative. In addition, the leaves can also be applied on to the skin as paste or poultice and are described to reduce skin irritations.

Traditionally also pastes from the Kawakawa leaves were chewed to help against toothache. Also, the roots of the shrub are described as medicine against toothaches, but the leaves were preferred due to their nicer flavour.

The interesting flavour is also the reason why since some years, the demand for the leaves is growing and the leaves are more and more used in tea products. Also, as a spice in recipes of dips and sauces and desserts to spice them up with dried Kawakawa powder.

Outside of New Zealand this plant is still pretty unknown, but we believe that it has a great potential as an old, but an innovative ingredient in beverage and food products.

Want to learn more about Kawakawa and how it can be incorporated into innovative products?

Get in touch!

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