Lecturer writes third Maori food book

JILL GALLOWAY
Last updated 12:00 12/06/2014

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Convolvulus, raupo and native orchids all produce roots that can be eaten, says an author of a new book on Maori root vegetables.

Massey University Natural Resources senior lecturer and leader of Maori Resources, Dr Nick Roskruge has written a book on maori root vegetables and their use and history.

The book, Rauwaru, the proverbial garden and Nga-Weri, moari root vegetables, their history and tips on their use, is the third in a series, following others he authored about pests and diseases and traditional Maori green vegetables.

"Most native roots are obscure now, but many people don't realise, [pre-European] Maori had a varied diet. People often think there were only a few food types."

Roskruge said there was considerable input from older Maori into the book.

"At hui, I'd have conversations and people would talk amongst themselves. The collective mataranga Maori, or traditional knowledge held by kaumatua and kuia, specially those with the Tahuri Whenua (the Maori vegetable growers collective), has been an invaluable resource."

He said many native root crops were rare.

"Now we have pasture and stock. Some [root crops] have been almost eaten out of existence, and others have suffered from a major change of environment."

Some unusual root crops in the book were geranium root, which was harvested in winter and washed and cooked and eaten as a vegetable longside kumara and taewa (Maori potatoes), as well as a native dandelion whose roots were dried and roasted and were sometimes ground and used as a coffee substitute.

Both the roots and shoots of New Zealand convolvulus were used, often as a relish. The roots were known as rarotawake and roasted or dried and steamed for use.

There is a chapter on cultivated root crops such as kumara, taewa (potato) varieties and New Zealand taro.

Roskruge said Massey University Press had printed 1000 copies and although it had only been out for less than a fortnight, 100 copies had sold.

"I put the book together because there is a demand. We don't sell them through book shops. Most libraries in schools want them, and wananga, some have sold to members of Tahuri Whenua and people who are interested."

Roskruge said while some information on root vegetables was around, it was piecemeal.

"A book like this puts all the knowledge together. And at the end of the day, it is representative of the knowledge we have."

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- Manawatu Standard

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