Harakeke is a New Zealand flax also known as swamp flax. Harakeke has broad, stiff leaves, red flowers and upright, curving seed pods.
In spring, birds – especially the tui – flock to feed on the nectar of the harakeke flowers, blooming on top of stems that are up to 4.5 metres long. By carrying pollen from plant to plant, the birds help flax to produce seeds in long pods.
The large grass-like leaves of harakeke grow to more than 3 metres in length and were used extensively by Maori for clothing, thatching and matting.
Harakeke is known to have health benefits and is used to treat boils, burns, as an antiseptic for cuts and internally for diarrhoea.
In Māori sayings and songs, flax can be a metaphor for family bonds and human relationships. Flax is a national emblem and a plant that many New Zealanders associate strongly with Aotearoa.
Special flax plants were tended in a plantation (pā harakeke) and there were traditions about when and how they could be harvested. The plant was seen as a family. The central shoot or rito was the baby and the leaves on either side of it the awhi rito or mātua (its parents). Only the leaves on the outside – the tūpuna, or grandparents – were cut, to avoid weakening the plant.
All Rhayne food products are certified food grade.