Before the European settlement of Aotearoa around 1840, the taewa (or riwai) was a staple food crop of the Māori. Taewa is a collective noun referring to the Māori potato - a collection of varieties of Solanum tuberosum now cultivated by Māori for at least 200 years.
Māori acknowledge that some varieties arrived with early explorers, sealers, and whalers during the eighteenth century. They also have traditions which relate the existence of taewa well before this period.
The sustenance of the people was of primary importance and the success or otherwise of staple foods such as taewa impacted on the daily lives of Māori prior to modern times. However, by the 1800s, taewa had also become a commercial crop for Māori, playing an important role in their introduction to European economics.
In more recent times, some varieties of taewa were lost, but due to research and indigenous gardening projects, a few varieties have survived.
Dark purple skin with deep white eyes - round. The name likens these potatoes to the eyes of a duck. Good to boil, bake or chip. A good keeper.
Creamy skin with cream coloured flesh, and a buttery taste.
Good to boil, bake, and chip. A good keeper.
Round with yellow and purple speckled skin. Cream coloured flesh and excellent texture.
Good to bake, boil, or chip. A good keeper
Multicoloured skin with creamy patterned flesh.
Good to bake, chip, or boil. A good keeper.
Long yam-like tuber with dark purple skin and purple flesh.
Good to bake or chip, and boils quickly. Average keeper.
Images courtesy of Nick Roskruge