When the farmer was afflicted with a cold, instead of dosing up on vitamin C and its ilk he decided to take a Maori bush remedy, having recently caught up with a visiting member of the local iwi who was collecting leaves on the roadside.
“Steep a handful in water and drink the brew,” the chap had said.
Consequently the sniffling, snuffling farmer and I set off to the spot where he’d seen the wise Maori.
“It could be these,” he said, stripping tender leaves off a tree. “Or maybe these.” And with a swipe, a branch of another tree was denuded.
“Are you sure it’s not this?” I pointed at a shrubby bush with heart-shaped leaves.
No, he insisted, the leaves he’d seen being picked were higher up.
Rather than have him poisoned, I suggested we visit a Maori friend who promptly led us into her garden and pointed out a small plant with the above-mentioned heart-shaped leaves. It’s a koromiko, she told us. A friend in Auckland had given her the cutting. What!?
Then she confessed to knowing nothing of Maori remedies. Her mother knew, but had died while our friend was too young to listen to her wisdom.
En route home the farmer and I detoured to the magic spot where we picked more leaves from the plant we’d been told was koromiko – then found thousands of the plants on the roadside as we drove home.
I was so uncertain the plant was koromiko, we checked the Internet and determined it was kawakawa – and a wonder plant.
Drinking the juice purifies blood and alleviates digestive complaints, chest troubles (the farmer’s woe), constipation, blood pressure and asthma. The leaves and bark can help heal wounds, ulcers, skin diseases, eye inflammation, scalds and burns – and more.
Koromiko is pretty handy as well. During WWII it was used to relieve diarrhoea and dysentery. It can help cure ulcers, sores, headaches, kidney and bladder troubles, STDs and British cholera, whatever that is.
The farmer cooked up a kawakawa brew which he sipped only twice. He said it tasted awful, but then he turns up his nose at all herb teas.
As an experiment I left the brew in the fridge. It was still there two weeks later and the Vitamin C tablets were also sitting around. Surprise, surprise, the farmer’s cold was still around as well.