Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Out door Wednesday: New Zealand Cabbage Trees


Some of you have wondered how the cabbage tree got it's name. I am doing this post for you.

The New Zealand Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis is a native to New Zealand. According to New Zealanders whose ancestors immigrated to this country, when they first arrived in New Zealand after a long sea journey from England, the early settlers were starved of fresh vegetables. When they saw the Maoris, the native New Zealanders eating the Tī rākau tree, they forced themselves to eat it. The leaders probably told them to imagine they were eating cabbage, and because it is a tree, they call it the New Zealand Cabbage tree.

Here, among the other native plants you can see the cabbage trees in these two photos.

This tree stands smack in the middle of my front lawn like a Diva. It is taller than my single storey house. If it gets any taller, it will become a protected tree and no one is allowed to chop it down. The law says if the tree is 6 metres, you can't cut it down.

This New Zealand Cabbage tree

 known as Tī rākau or Tī kōuka (and, more rarely, whanake) in the Māori language is a monocotyledon endemic to New Zealand. It grows up to 15 m tall, at first on a single stem, but dividing into a much-branched crown, each branch may fork after producing a flowering stem. The leaves are sword-shaped, 40 to 90 cm long and 3 to 7 cm broad at the base, with numerous parallel veins. The flowers are creamy white, each flower small, about 1 cm diameter with six tepals, and produced in a large, dense cluster 50 to 100 cm long. The fruit is a white berry 5 to 7 mm in diameter.
Because their high carbohydrate content can be made digestible by cooking, they were a valuable food source for at least the first 800 years of Māori occupation of New Zealand. Radiocarbon dating points to use since about the year 1000. Related trees were probably valuable elsewhere in the South Pacific. Fern root was the only other substantial native carbohydrate source.

The Maoris obtained a most nutritious food, kauru, from the root of the young cabbage tree. This root is an extension of the trunk below the surface of the ground and is shaped like an enormous carrot some 2–3 ft long. An observer of the early 1840s, Edward Shortland, noted that the Maoris “prefer those grown in deep rich soil; they have learned to dig it at the season when it contains the greatest quantity of saccharine matter; that is, just before the flowering of the plant. They then bake, or rather steam it in their ovens. On cooling, the sugar is partially crystallised, and is found mixed with other matter between the fibres of the root, which are easily separated by tearing them asunder, and are then dipped in water and chewed


1 comment:

Natasha in Oz said...

That was very interesting! Thanks for sharing this great information. Beautiful pictures too!

Best wishes,
Natasha (& Stacey & Holly)