Sweet treat "Mothballs" from New Zealand

Mothballs: A Sweet Treat From New Zealand


Sweet treat "Mothballs" from New Zealand


Don’t be deceived by the unappetizing name

Since the holidays season is here, over the next few weeks on Italian Kiwi, I’m going to be sharing recipes for sweet treats and cookies that you can make for this time of the year. Christmas is a great excuse to load yourself up with sugar.  Push the worry about the results of that until January! At Christmas time in New Zealand, my mother always made these Rice Krispie and date balls for us to eat as treats. The name “mothball” comes from their appearance, as they are fluffy with white coconut.  A more apt name for them may be “snowballs”, however in New Zealand, Christmas is in the middle of the Summer, so there is no snow to be found anywhere. Or maybe they’re called mothballs as they look like the nether regions of a moth.  on second thoughts, let’s stop thinking about the origin of the name, as it’s getting kind of stomach-churning!  Let’s just enjoy the fact that they’re easy to make and delicious to eat.


mothball dough


Why dates are used when date palms don’t grow in NZ

Mothballs make great gifts!  They look pretty, taste great and keep for a couple of weeks outside of the fridge. To make them harden quickly, you can put them in the fridge for 2 or 3 hours after they’re made. I find it interesting that in New Zealand, many desserts and cakes have dates in them, although it is actually not warm enough there to grow date palms.  I’m guessing that back before there were fridges and any kind of fast transport, dates must have been used often as you could keep them for a long time.  Coconut is another ingredient that crops up often in New Zealand recipes, like these mothballs, but isn’t grown in NZ.  If you want other NZ recipes with coconut, you can have a look at  cookies like ANZAC biscuits , or slices like Chocolate Caramel Slice. I think it was used for the same reason.

final dough for mothballs


Travel Photo Of The Week

This shot was taken very close to where my lucky brother lives. The surf beach you arrive at when you get to the end of this sandy trail is called Mangawhai Heads, and the island you see off the coast is a wildlife refuge.  It’s part of a group of islands that Captain James Cook dubbed The Hen And Chickens (the big one is “The Hen”) when he sailed past them. The Hen’s Maori name is Taranga, which I like better.  You are not allowed to set foot on the island as there are colonies of very rare native birds there that no longer live anywhere else in New Zealand, thanks to the introduction on the mainland of non-native animals such as stoats and rats that eat the eggs and chicks.  NZ has no native land mammals and no snakes, so the birds did not evolve to protect themselves from hunters.  The introduced animals have (for them) fabulous pickings in New Zealand, as they can easily kill the native flightless birds, or eat the eggs that are laid by birds in nests on the ground. Thank goodness for these outlying islands that can help us to save our natural heritage!



Mangawhai Heads, New Zealand


By Lisa Watson

mothballs from New Zealand

Don’t be deceived by the name!  Mothballs are a sweet treat from New Zealand made of dates and coconut.  find the recipe on Italian Kiwi
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
fridge time1 day
Total Time15 minutes
Course: Dessert, Snack, sweet
Cuisine: New Zealand
Servings: 20 -25 balls


  • 70 g Butter 2.4 oz.
  • 200 g White sugar 1 cup/ 7.2 oz.
  • 150 g Pitted dates 1 cup
  • 45 g Rice bubbles (Rice Krispies) 1 1/2 cups/ 5 oz.
  • Dried coconut


  • Chop the dates roughly.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy-based pot on medium-low heat.
  • Stir the dates and sugar into the melted butter until the mixture clumps together (about 5 minutes).
  • Take the pot off the heat and stir in the Rice Krispies.
  • Pour some dried coconut onto a plate.
  • Take walnut-sized amounts of the mixture and form them into balls.
  • Roll the balls in the coconut.
  • Place the mothballs in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.