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Research project a time machine for pre-European Maori

Nov 7th, 2013 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

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EARLY DAYS: Pete Adds shows off the garden which is in its final stage before plantation.

A GROUP at Victoria University are going back to their roots – recreating an ancient Maori garden.

The University is working on a small garden to replicate and research Maori crops before European contact.

Maara Kai, as the project is known, will only grow crops brought to New Zealand by early Maori settlers representing gardens from as far back as 1200 AD.

Peter Adds, head of department of Maori studies at Victoria, will be one of those most interested in the results of the garden.

“That’s what it’s about. Trying to reproduce the growing conditions that would’ve been in Wellington when people first arrived here and seeing if we can get things to grow,” Mr Adds said.

The garden is planned to run for ten years, as part of a study of pre European life in New Zealand.

Maara Kai has had a lot of obstacles that come with replicating land from hundreds of years ago.

“People burnt the bush off to establish a garden and it was actually virgin soil they had. So trying to recreate that is the difficult part for us at the moment,” said Mr Adds.

Terese Mcleod has been co-ordinating the project and was excited by how unique Maara Kai was.

“The idea is really fantastic. It’s not just any old garden with lettuce and corn and stuff, this is pre contact crop. That makes it special.”

The study will be focused on early Maori life but Ms Mcleod said the idea garners interest from a wide range of people.

“This pre-contact crop has been a conversation piece with enormous amounts of people in our community. People in the wider com are fascinated by this whole thing.”

All work on the project was voluntary but the volunteers will be able to use the resulting crops.

“We tried eating one of the varieties, Taputini, and it’s like eating white velvet. It’s nothing like I’ve ever tried before,” said Ms Mcleod.

“I thought it’d be yuck. But I was delighted at just how sexy it tasted. It’s beautiful.”

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  1. Kia ora Hoani

    An excellent story thank you, Ngā mihi Terese and Te Kawa a Māui whanau

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