Kawakawa - also known as New Zealand's native bush basil - is grown wild, then dried and crushed into flakes.
Use as a culinary herb. Also popular for brewing as a tea - itself or as part of your own mix.
Now available in a new resealable - compostable - pouch.
Forest Gourmet's Kawakawa flakes were my first experience with tasting this interesting herb, I have heard a lot about the health benefits of kawakawa and its use in traditional maori medicine and have used kawakawa in a balm format for skin ailments but had never tasted it before. I was very pleased to receive this packet in my KIWIreviews parcel to review and couldn't wait to try it. I did do a bit of research before requesting to see how I could use kawakawa flakes so was prepared with a couple of uses to start with.
I learned that dried kawakawa has traditionally been used as a herbal tea and as a big tea drinker I have loved trying different flavour infusions so my first trial with the kawakawa was to use it to make a herbal tea. Kawakawa has been known to help with digestion so I made a brew to follow my evening meal. It is an interesting flavour to drink as a tea as it definitely has a savoury herb flavour with a bite of a peppery bite but I did enjoy it with a small amount of manuka honey and cinnamon for a uplifting and warming drink and could drink it regularly with the added sweeteners.
As kawakawa is referred to as a native bush basil and has a natural peppery taste I really wanted to try this as a seasoning with my meals so added it in with some other herbs and some salt to make a rub for steak I was preparing. I'm not sure I would liken it to basil it definitely has a familiar herb flavour but basil wasn't my first impression I wanted to say almost coriander like but a bit more peppery. Either way it is a flavour I enjoyed and definitely complimented meat very well I could see myself using it as a seasoning regularly.
The package is a great size too usually with herbs you get very small packages and this is a good 50gram size pouch that is completely resealable to keep the kawakawa fresh. I also noted that the pouch is compostable which I thought was a unique and great idea to cut down on plastic waste is a fantastic cause. While more expensive than common herbs you can buy I think its worth it to have a uniquely NZ herb with a great flavour like this and I would be happy to pay that price now I have tried kawakawa for eating I will be using it again. I have long hailed kawakawa balm for the amazing results it has had on my childrens eczema and have noticed that the tea I have made has helped keep my stomach feeling refreshed and revitalised after meals.
I have heard people speak of Kawakawa before and praised it and I have tried it in Aldersons Kawakawa salsa verde sauce but I have never had the privilege of having it as flakes that I could add to my own meals until now. The Kawakawa flakes come in a dark black 50-gram mainly compostable bag that doesn't allow you to see the contents as it is recommended that the Kawakawa flakes avoid direct sunlight in storage which means if you happened to leave the bag out the packaging will still help protect the herb flakes to a degree. I was very interested in tasting this herb as it hails from the pepper tree family and is referred to as native bush basil so I got right to researching Kawakawa and found that it has other properties outside of just nutritional as it is used for its healing abilities in medicines, ointments and is great for digestion aid.
I tore open the bag and opened up the resealable tab to be greeted with a strong unique aroma of what I can only describe as being a mix of coriander and mint. I took a pinch of the Kawakawa flakes and proceeded to chew on the small pieces of leaf and was pleasantly surprised that the taste was a somewhat sweet and savoury pepper flavour that welcomely lingered for quite some time and after a while was reminiscent of almost a tea leaf aftertaste flavour. I had decided to make homemade burgers for dinner using both the Forest Gourmet Kawakawa flakes and Horopito bush pepper and I must say I am happy that I did as these two flakes really added the depth of flavour that paired so well with the meatiness of the patty.
I then sprinkled the Kawakawa flakes with garlic salt over a mixture of potatoes, kumara, and carrot then roasted the vegetables. The flavour was more pronounced on the vegetables than it was within the burger patties and really was the star of the dish as it shined bright with its earthy subtle peppery flavour. The price of the bag is a little bit steep at $24.95 for the 50-gram pouch but I can see this lasting a long time as the flakes a very finely ground and holds a strong taste from a small quantity so you don't have to use much at all to get a good flavour. I have many other meals that I can see these Kawakawa flakes pairing well with and look forward to trying them. If you like experimenting with flavours throughout cooking then I recommend Kawakawa flakes as they really are a great flavour addition and I am thoroughly pleased in the results thus far I have gotten from them.
I have not tried kawakawa in flake form before so was really intrigued by this product. We opened it and before sampling the contents gave it the sniff test. All of us agreed that it had the same aroma as a herbal tea, and since I already knew that brewing was one of the suggested ways to try it, I decided I would give that a go as part of the review process. First, however, we wanted to try it out as part of our dinner.
My daughter had made a thick pumpkin soup with added stock (from leftover chicken bones), chicken pieces, and pulses. It needed a little something extra, so we added a tablespoon of the flakes about fifteen minutes before serving and simmered it to release the flavour. We topped each plate with a dollop of sour cream and a little kawakawa for garnish. Quite honestly, we could not taste any difference - either the other ingredients had overwhelmed it or we had not used enough.
The second experiment was with macaroni cheese. This time I used as much for one person (one tablespoon) as I had for five of us the previous day, adding it to the cheese sauce while it was cooking. What a difference! This time the flavour was strong and made the macaroni much more interesting. It was clear that I had used far too little the first time round. I think what confused me was the description "bush basil" as regular basil is much stronger. We will try it again some time in the soup as I am sure the quantity is the key. It would have been useful if there had been an indication on the packaging as to how much to use.
Lastly, I made a pot of tea using a heaped tablespoon to 400 ml water. After it had been brewing for five minutes or so, I poured it into two cups - one with nothing else added, the other with a scant teaspoon of Barker's Chai Coffee Syrup to flavour. The strength ratio was about right for me as I like my tea reasonably weak, but some people might prefer to add more flakes. As for taste - the plain version reminded me of Alpine tea, tasting (and smelling) of a combination of oregano and thyme. But the other cup (with the chai syrup added) was stunning - sweet and strong with overtones of citrus and herbs. I drank half of it while it was still hot and let the other half go completely cold, and enjoyed both versions equally. This would be a super refreshing drink on a hot day!
As a footnote, I am interested that the "majority" of the packaging is designed to break down as compost. I would have liked to know if there is a part of the pack (the reseal mechanism?) which should be removed first. I am totally into renewing and recycling, but know to remove things like metal fastenings and sellotape before putting items like unbleached card into my compost heap. While this does not take away from the quality of the product, it is important information from the consumer's point of view.
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