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    Rights: The University of Waikato
    Published 25 June 2009 Referencing Hub media

    Potatoes were first introduced to New Zealand over 200 years ago and were an important food crop for Māori, who named the different taewa varieties and have continued to grow them ever since. Who brought the first taewa to New Zealand?


    Dr Nick Roskruge (Massey University)

    All potatoes originated in South America, and they, they belong to the same family. The Tūtaekurī is actually a different species of the potato plant, but it’s still the same family of plants.

    There’s always been stories about boats that have sort of arrived here by chance, long before documented contact, and things like the taewa were left as part of the residue of that.

    Early explorers did take crops that stored better on the boats and that they could access on their longer journeys. For instance, they would be on Cook but they would stop at Australia and then come across to New Zealand, and they would access food stores and bring it across with them. So they've come on that route from Europe down through South Africa, and across. That’s a standard route.

    The whales and the sealers used to plant stores on the remote areas where they worked so that they could go back and – in a month’s time or six months’ time – and there would be food for them to harvest, the same as releasing pigs and those sorts of things, and they used to consciously do that.

    Lake with waka and pa on headland, painted by Charles Barraud, ca 1870. Reference number: G-003, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
    Ongarua River, painted by William George Baker, ca 1890-1910. Reference number: G-503, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.