Taewa are traditional potato varieties grown by early Māori settlers in New Zealand. Find out how researchers are now developing unique food products from taewa.
Taewa were introduced to New Zealand in the late 18th century and became a staple Māori food crop before the arrival of European settlers. Māori grew taewa commercially until the late 19th century. Although commercial taewa production ceased, Māori have continued to grow them.
The cultural significance of taewa
Taewa have significant cultural and historical value in New Zealand. Traditional varieties of taewa have been preserved by Māori and passed down through generations so they’re still available today in their original form. Māori treasure them as a link to their early ancestors. Find out more in this article,
Why can’t you buy them in supermarkets?
Taewa have self-selected over generations, making them hardy and disease resistant. However, they produce fewer tubers than modern potatoes, so they’ve never been grown in the large amounts needed to supply supermarkets, whereas modern potatoes have been bred specifically for their high yield.
Dr Nick Roskruge, an agronomist at Massey University, has started a taewa seed bank, so eventually it will be possible to grow enough taewa to sell.
Testing the properties of taewa
Dr Jaspreet Singh and other researchers at the Riddet Institute in Palmerston North are studying the physical and chemical properties of taewa. Their research shows that taewa have significant nutritional value compared to the modern potato.
Unique New Zealand food products
The food industry in New Zealand are looking for unique New Zealand foods and value-added products for local and overseas markets. Taewa – as anfood with unique characteristics and nutritional benefits – makes a good starting point. Researchers are developing new ideas for food products that use taewa to sell to local and overseas markets. Can you think of any new food products that could be made out of taewa?
Design a label for a taewa product helps students develop knowledge of prototype taewa products and design a label that reflects the cultural value and specified market for the product. It makes use of the activity What's on a label?investigate opportunities for new products using taewa and to develop a prototype taewa product for a specific market.
In the 2020 Connected article Whakaotirangi and her kete of kūmara, learn how Tainui ancestor Whakaotirangi first brought kūmara and other plants to Aotearoa and the techniques she used to plant, grow and store them.
Visit the Tāhuri Whenua – National Māori Vegetable Growers’ Collective website to read about their team, crops and projects.
The Vegetables.co.nz website has taewa information for retailers and consumers.
The High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge harnesses New Zealand’s world-class scientific expertise to create knowledge that will deliver a competitive advantage to New Zealand’s food and beverage exports.