Harakeke is a New Zealand flax also known as swamp flax. Harakeke has broad, stiff leaves, red flowers and upright, curving seed pods.
The seeds are highly edible and can be sprinkled on a salad, added to a paste and a dip, but best of all, use them for flavouring - for distilling or roasting.
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.
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.
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