Taewa

Taewa Māori Potatoes
Taewa Māori Potatoes

At this time of gathering, sharing harvests, feasting with whanau, Pōhutukawa encourages us to take time to remember those that have passed, and to acknowledge their impact on our lives. Taewa are a link to cultural heritage and both early Māori & Europeanlifestyle in Aotearoa. Taewa are particularly precious as they have been passed down from ancestors through many generations.

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In these cooler parts of Te Wai Pounamu traditional staples like Kūmara & Taro didn’t grow or keep that well. By the time Matariki was beginning to look over the horizon at her tamariki the rua of these crops only allowed the early communities to subsist from the land by coming together over the cold takurua/winters.

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The introduction of taewa in Aotearoa by the early European explorers saw Māori rapidly including these as a main crop and staple food as they were easier to grow, higher yielding and stored better than Kūmara.

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When Matariki sets in the western sky at dusk during Haratua, the harvesting of the taewa and storing in rua has been completed and takuruais near.

Matariki’s reappearance in the east signals the time to begin planning and preparing the ground while the energy in the earth is dormant.

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Tupu-ā-nuku reminds us to nurture and care for the earth whilst we are together with whanau at this time. Many hands make light work and strengthen the connection to the earth and each other. Through Matariki, stories, lessons and knowledge are shared, passed on year to year, generation to generation.

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With these stories taewa have been passed on through generations of whanau, along with the knowledge of how best to prepare the earth, plant, harvest, store and feast upon this nourishing kai. Whilst much knowledge has been lost, Koukourārata Marae on Banks Peninsula have dug deep and held onto varieties of taewa with over 200 years of Waitaha/Canterbury history. These taewa are true taonga, they provide a genuine connection to ancestry on a historical, cultural and spiritual level.

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The humble taewa has played an important role in the shaping of this young country and what better way to honour it than keeping the stories and legacy growing.


Words and image by our Kaitaki member - Phil Varley - Farmer & Grower at Pihi Farms in North Canterbury.

I run a small diverse regenerative farm - @pihifarms that provides meat and produce direct to our local community. Through our produce, workshops and consulting we share our passion of connecting people to their environment through food and how it impacts the health & resilience of the ecosystem, ourselves and our community. Our farm name; Pihi means to sprout/to grow in Te Reo Māori. My professional background is in design and management of construction projects and prior to farming I’ve been on a seven year journey of research, learning and experimenting. I’m also part of the Regrarians platform; a global network of regenerative ag practitioners/consultants/educators. Let’s Grow Together!

Words by eatnewzealand
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