For nour­ish­ment in a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion

FOOD is not as high on the list of sur­vival pri­or­i­ties as many peo­ple be­lieve it is. Nor

NZ Lifestyle Block - - FEATURE -

The eas­i­est and most recog­nis­able for most peo­ple would be NZ’S na­tive ferns. Some cau­tion is re­quired here as only a few of the many hun­dreds of fern species are ed­i­ble, although it ap­pears none are highly poi­sonous. Even the ed­i­ble ones are likely to have some car­cino­genic qual­i­ties but as a sur­vival food this may not be avoid­able.

Māori com­monly ate the roots of bracken fern (rārahu) and although their prepa­ra­tion meth­ods were quite com­plex, in a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion you could roast them and chew them to ob­tain the juices. The fi­brous part of the root is ed­i­ble but ac­cord­ing to Els­don Best (au­thor of For­est Lore of the Maori), it’s not ter­ri­bly pleas­ant to swal­low.

The young fronds (the koru-shaped fid­dle­heads) have his­tor­i­cally been eaten but are now known to be car­cino­genic. Although the car­cino­genic com­pound ap­pears to be de­stroyed with cook­ing, it is best to avoid this plant un­less ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary and only eat it af­ter cook­ing.

It is prefer­able to ob­tain the young shoots, or fid­dle heads, of the hen and chick­ens fern (mouku), the com­mon shield fern (pikopiko), the gully fern (pākau) or the hound’s tongue fern (kōwaowao). All of these young fronds are quite palat­able when steamed or boiled un­til just ten­der.

The eas­ily-recog­nised ma­maku (black tree fern) is a use­ful sur­vival food to know. Māori steamed the ma­maku pith taken from the trunk but due to the slow re­gen­er­a­tion of the tree it was only used in times of scarcity or by trav­ellers. Re­mov­ing the pith from the trunk pre­vents the tree from re­new­ing and should only be at­tempted in a gen­uine sur­vival sit­u­a­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to An­drew Crowe, au­thor of A Field Guide to the Na­tive Ed­i­ble Plants of New Zealand, it is pos­si­ble to re­move some of the pith from the frond stems with­out dam­ag­ing the tree. These can then be sun­dried, steamed, baked or boiled.

Another tree that grows in abun­dance in New Zealand is the cab­bage tree (tī kōuka). The ten­der shoots of all types of cab­bage trees can be eaten, raw or cooked. The trick is to get the new shoots grow­ing out of the top of the stem, peel away the outer leaves and eat the ten­der white part, which looks a bit like a leek and tastes a bit like cab­bage. De­pend­ing on the sea­son and the age of the shoots, the taste can be fairly bit­ter but this does im­prove some­what with cook­ing. Due to the year-round avail­abil­ity of this plant, it truly is a great sur­vival food. Another great sur­vival food to keep in mind is the sup­ple­jack (kareao). The new growth at the end of the vine has a mild sim­i­lar­ity to as­para­gus or green beans and are at their best in sum­mer and eaten cooked. The berries are lit­tle red ones and can be found through­out the year. They don’t taste bril­liant but do pro­vide some good pro­tein and energy. The tu­bers and leaves of sup­ple­jack are all pur­port­edly ed­i­ble but not known to have been con­sumed by any­one on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

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