Posts Tagged ‘maori


Dear NZ Gardeners – Happy New Year!

It’s now completely official – no matter which way you recognise Matariki, it is officially the New Year! New Zealand gardeners should join with Maori in celebrating this special time of year, because ma’dears – this what Christmas should be for the Southern Hemisphere. A little confused? You don’t recognise the word Matariki, let alone the concepts? And how does the Winter Solstice fit in here? Do I get more presents? What babble is this? What are you talking about woman? Read on… it shall all be explained.

Continue reading ‘Dear NZ Gardeners – Happy New Year!’


Maara Kai project ‘sowing seeds of potential’

vegetablesSetting up a maara kai (community garden) is an act of reclaiming Māori culture, self-reliance, and rangatiratanga, according to Māori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples.

The Minister was speaking at the launch of a New Zealand programme to promote community gardens on marae and Māori community projects. 250 eligible maara kai can get grants of up to $2,000 to buy tools and composting equipment, or to build garden beds and implement sheds. The programme is a joint venture between Te Puni Kōkiri and Te Waka Kai Ora, the Māori organic food collective. Gardens must be non-commercial, to benefit a local Māori community.

Dr Sharples said the $500,000 Maara Kai programme achieves many outcomes at once.

“On the most immediate level it will result in measurable benefits in terms of healthy produce to eat. But there are other, less-tangible but just as significant benefits – healthy outdoor activity, and learning the skills of planting, growing, harvesting and storing fruit and vegetables.

Community and social benefits – a network of friends, people with knowledge passing it on to those who are keen to learn, crops to share amongst whānau, and the satisfaction of cooking and eating food we have grown ourselves.

All the activities involved in setting up, tending and harvesting maara kai bring us closer together and help us to remember the teachings of our tīpuna and the way they live. Our tīpuna worked together, they shared what they had, and they ensured younger generations were equipped with survival skills. This made them strong enough to survive the challenges of their world.

It is about encouraging collective responsibility for our health and wellbeing, while at the same time preserving our respect for our whenua, our land – the ultimate expression of kaitiakitanga.”


Kowhai ngutu kaka

Kowhai ngutu kaka, kaka beak, Clianthus puniceusSpotted in Saturday’s DomPost, the stunning kowhai ngutu kaka, a.k.a kaka beak or Clianthus puniceus. The article was a little questionable (kaka beak has been nearly extinct in the wild since the 1940s, so there’s hardly any point trying to blame cows or grapes). But it’s nice to see the incredible scarlet flowers get a showing.

It is true however, that the wild population is down to one known plant, on an island in the Kaipara Harbour (which, btw, has no cows or grapes on it). The Maori did their best to move it around the country centuries ago, cultivating it in areas where they lived. Not only was it visually arresting, but the scent was used in body oils. The nectar would have attracted tui, and as a legume it would have contributed to the fertility of the soil.

If it weren’t for its incredible looks, the kowhai ngutu kaka would have died out a long time ago. Luckily, gardener’s have kept this species alive  internationally. Like most pretty things, kowhai ngutu kaka is a bit sensitive – weeds, insects, snails, drought, browsing and wind all do damage – and needs the loving hand of a gardener to help it along. The plant is a beautiful reminder of just how important gardeners can be.

Beautiful image courtesy of, and copyright to David Wall Photography.
More stunning photos of kaka beak at Arkive.


Maara Kai – From Garden To Plate

Horopito (Pseudowintera colorata)

It used to be commonplace for New Zealand families to grow their own produce and eat from their gardens. Maara Kai is a new series that looks at ways families can restore that connection between the garden and the plate, and premieres on Maori Television on Sunday April 12 at 5pm.

“Many of us come from parents or grandparents who gardened, or used what was available to feed the family, and this is a way of life that still appeals to many people,” says Maara Kai producer Te Hira Henderson. “Many people want to be more sustainable and self-sufficient in how they eat and feed their families. This show encourages people who are keen to make changes to go out and do it.”

Continue reading ‘Maara Kai – From Garden To Plate’


Learning From The Elders on The Internet

dsc01420Terrific work is happening in the recording of traditional food knowledge (TFK) from indigenous people around the world. TFK refers to the cultural tradition of sharing food, recipes and cooking skills and techniques and passing down that collective wisdom through generations. I see this as a very important for two reasons:

1 – To help populations regain their connection to the land, keep their traditional knowledge and reclaim their identity, health and mana.

2 – I’d like to believe that it’s now pretty well understood that many modern intensive-agricultural methods aren’t beneficial to the environment or mankind. We need to take a look at different ways people beneficially work with the land and apply some of the lessons to our own little piece of the earth.

Indigenous Nutrition is a fantastic website with seven quality webisodes exploring the traditional knowledge of seven different peoples, and what they’re doing to keep it. The focus is primarily on health issues. This is an excellent resource and will hopefully inspire others to do similar things within their communities.

From a New Zealand viewpoint, Te Ara covers Māori food production economics and The National Library does a brief introduction to traditional knowledge. The Māori Plant Use database allows easy access to records on traditional uses of NZ native plants. The same people (Maanaki Whenua, who incidentally have a wonderful bookstore) also provide excellent information on harakeke (NZ flax, Phormium spp.).

A lot of work is being done in this area and it would be great to see more resources online in the near future. If you’ve got any great links in this area, please share in the comments.


Another Glorious Red New Zealand Summer

Pohutukawa Metrosideras excelsaYou can tell that summer and the festive season are here. It’s difficult to miss with the tell-tale red lights of the pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) signalling the way. The pohutukawa is also known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree because of the beautiful crimson display that flares at the end of November and right through January.

The red flower heads look like balls of fluff thanks to their petals being inconspicuous. The mass is made of long red stamens, lightly tipped with golden pollen sacks. And they light up the tree as if covered in red tinsel.

The pohutukawa is a New Zealand native but comes from the Myrtaceae or Myrtle family that also gives us clove, guava, feijoa and eucalyptus. It’s less fragrant than the other relatives but is so well loved that we can’t get enough of it.

More on the beauty, the symbolism and the protection of New Zealand pohutukawa with plenty of links, after the jump Continue reading ‘Another Glorious Red New Zealand Summer’


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