Friday, August 28, 2009
A Favourite Food
It always seems a shame to me that Maori potatoes are not easier to come by. These tasty little nuggets, known collectively as taewa, or sometimes riwai, are much more flavoursome than normal potatoes; but it’s all about commercial reality – taewa have self-selected over many generations making them hardy and disease resistant but sadly, they produce fewer tubers than modern potatoes, so they’re not attractive to commercial growers. For Maori though, they have a cultural and historical significance and traditional varieties (over 18 have been identified) have been preserved and passed down through many Maori families. They were first introduced to New Zealand in the late 18th century and they quickly became a staple crop for Maori prior to the arrival of Europeans. Taewa, I’m told, is the collective name for several varieties of Solanum tuberosum, which have been cultivated by Maori for over 200 years. Some of the more common varieties today are the popular purple specimens – Tutaekuri (Urenika), Karuparera and Te Maori; the red-skinned Makoikoi, also known as the Chatham Island Red Rock; Raupi, Moe Moe and Huakaroro, which all have creamy skin and patterned flesh. My favourites are the purple-skinned Urenika, which actually look more like little yams, but I haven’t found any in ages. I must keep a look out.