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Garden AdviceTraditional Maori Gardening

Maori Potatoes

Before the European settlement of Aotearoa around 1840, the taewa (or riwai) was a staple food crop of the Maori. Taewa is a collective noun referring to the Maori potato - a collection of varieties of Solanum tuberosum now cultivated by Maori for at least 200 years.

Maori 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 Maori prior to modern times. However, by the 1800s, taewa had also become a commercial crop for Maori, 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.

Where can people get seed potatoes for the Maori potatoes?

Koanga Institute: Order Heritage A varieties online
Orask around your local gardening community and community gardens for some potatoes to plant and sprout from.
Try putting a call out on Ask Share Give to see who has got what

A great identification resource on different Maori Potato varieties from Te Papa.

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