The karaka berry is abundantly found throughout Aotea Harbour. They provided a staple source of food when the trees were fruiting – February to March. When ripe the fragrant of the karaka berry has very distinctive and pleasant aroma. The yellow flesh is edible but the kernel must be carefully prepared before it is eaten. In fact it is very poisonous if it is not prepared properly and can cause serious convulsions. Our grandparents prepared these kernels for special occasions such as the poukai. The taste of the kernel is unique and has a pasty texture.
The following steps describe how our kuia (Rangirangi Taylor) prepared the karaka kernels for eating:
Collect the ripe berries from the karaka tree or off the ground. The first picture shows berries collected from the tree and the second shows berries from the ground. When the berries turn orange they are ripe. The berries picked from the ground are easier to process because the skin has already come off.
If you choose to pick them from the tree remove the skin and flesh by breaking and working your way to the kernel. Large amounts were trodden with bare feet in water to remove the flesh.
Light a fire and put the kernels in a pot of water before bringing it to the boil. It is important to keep the water boiling for at six-eight hours and to add more water as it reduces. This process will help remove the poison. Alternatively the kernels can be steamed in a hangi for 24 hours.
After cooking remove from the pot and place the kernels into a sugar bag and immerse in a free-flowing stream for at least a week to discard the poison.
After removing from the stream allow the kernels to dry in the sun. Break the outer shell with your hand and remove the smooth flesh for eating.
We would like to acknowledge and thank Rangirangi’s family for allowing us to use these pictures of her.
(Matauranga Kura Taiao Project)
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