Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mamaki -Homegrown Tea

We have a tree growing wild on the farm that is called mamaki. It is endemic to Hawaii and historically has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes. But I just like using mamaki as a pleasant tea to drink. A tea made from the leaves is mild and tastes like a traditional green tea without any bitterness. 
In the above photo, the plant is wet from a rain. That's why the leaves look shiny. Mamaki is related to nettles and you can see the similarity in the leaves. Happily there are no stinging hairs! 

Because I have numerous mamaki plants around the place, I haven't bothered to formally cultivate it. Baby trees just happen to pop up here be there, and if it happens in a good location, I'll mark the spot so that I don't accidently hack the little sapling down. My original tree came up right beside the house, not the best place for a small tree.
 But I wanted the mamaki, so I left it there. It's roots came out from the base of one of the house foundation blocks, so I was adverse to digging it up to move it. Thus it stayed. But now I plan to hack it down to the ground after I harvest all the good leaves. I've got plenty of others growing around, most likely keiki from this very first tree since the birds eat the fruits and thus spread the seeds. 

Ok, the tree is destined to go. But  first I'm harvesting the leaves for future cups of tea. I plan to do the harvest over a period of several days, simply because I don't have enough room to dry all those leaves at once. 

I'm picking the nicest, healthiest looking leaves and tips of branches. The tips I'll dry "as it", then once dry & crispy I'll crumble off the leaves leaving behind the stems. For the individual leaves, I'll snip off the stems before drying. 
Once washed, I place the leaves on a rack well above my woodstove. One of my friends gave me this rack, an old kitchen pot hanger. I find it works great for drying stuff above the stove.........wet hats, shoes, jackets, etc. I often leave my bamboo steamer there so that it doesn't get moldy. 
When I have food to dry, I lay out a clean towel across the rack. The mamaki leaves dry beautifully this way. 
Once dry, I'll store them in a plastic ziplock bag in the freezer until I need some for tea. Mamaki tea with a leaf of mint added makes a wonderful cup of tea. 

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