Puha - the unsung hero of superfoods

By Peata Melbourne
  • Auckland

Super Puha could be the next big food fad following scientific testing that proves it's high iron and nutrients. Kui Hikatangata, a third-year student  at the Manukau Insitute of Technology today harvested her third crop of puha and proved that even a weed - a popular Māori cuisine, can be turned into a tasty high-end restaurant dish. Her mission is to trial the best time for harvesting pūhā for both medicinal purposes and as food. 

"These ones have been loved and fed, and sung to, veggies," she says.

For Kui, pūhā is much more than just a weed. Her research shows it has health and medicinal qualities that outweigh many other veggies.

"I was wanting to know the relationship between the iron and the sugar level and when the best time it is to harvest for rongoa (medicine) and for eating."

Kui's findings are also showing an interesting trend: that puha grown in the wild has higher iron levels than her samples grown in a greenhouse. But when it comes to preparing puha for dishes, this chef says the greenhouse grown green comes out on top

Chef Des Ngatipa says, "Puha itself is quite bitter, but as I've found working with Kui and the Horticulture Department, their puha is actually quite a mustardy sort of taste and it actually melts in your mouth."

Kui has developed a series of recipes including creating a puha pesto and a twist on the classic Māori dish toroi (mussels) as part of her trials.

"You can use it in a smoothie, stir fry it, it's not just good for boil up."

The data available on puha is limited, but Kui is determined to change that - proving scientifically what her grandmother knew all along.

"It is a superfood, and it's kind of a step up from kale, well I'm just being bias, but taste-wise, it's sweeter."

True to her testament, just a mouthful will prove to anyone's taste buds Kui's Puha Magic Pesto is an unsung hero of the super foods.