Tena koe / Greetings, Welcome to Tahuri Whenua
Tahuri Whenua Inc. is a national collective of horticultural interests aligned to Maori horticulture – that is; crop options, Maori resource use, people interested in Maori crops, Maori interested in horticulture, or anyone with an interest aligned to this area. So the collective is a national group or roopu with a wide range of members, Maori and non-Maori, who regularly come together for hui, field experiences and visits to regions including tours of projects. We support a wide range of horticultural aligned activities including tertiary projects, primary and secondary kura and school projects, Te Puni Kokiri Maara kai projects in some regions, information access, sharing or support, network opportunities, and promotional opportunities. This initiative for Matariki serves as a promotional opportunity to showcase our Maori kai (food) and to let you experience growing the plant through to harvesting and cooking of the produce.
GROWING YOUR TAEWA PLANT
Taewa have been around in Aotearoa / New Zealand for a long time. As with all potato types their botanical origin is from the Andean region of the South American continent. The introduction to this country is not specifically documented and most people generally agree that the common types arrived with early European contact – sometimes unrecorded, and potentially prior to Cook’s arrival.
Taewa belong to the solanaceae family of plants so are related to some well-known foods and vegetables also of that family; potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, tamarillo, aubergine, and cape gooseberry. They are grown in the same way as potatoes – so any addition of fertiliser or pest and disease controls should be the same as you would apply to potatoes. Because this exercise is with one seed tuber only we suggest you grow it in a bucket to manage better. To do this you will need:
• To store the seed tuber until required in a cool dry and dark place – 2-5°C is ideal.
• 1 bucket, (15-20 Litre) preferred – with holes made in the bottom for drainage
• Compost or growing media, sufficient to fill the bucket to 4/5th of its height
• Additional fertilizer to apply while growing – liquid fertiliser including seaweed options are a good choice
• A place for the bucket to sit sheltered from frost for early planting i.e. Christmas harvest
If you want to have freshly harvested taewa around Christmas time then you need to plant around September. Taewa take at least 3 months from planting to early harvest. Plants left longer (4-5 months) will size up more and also have better skins for handling and storage. Early harvested taewa need to be consumed relatively quickly. You can plant the seed tuber therefore from September onwards providing you place the emerging plant away from any frosts which will kill it.
Prior to planting – perhaps 2 weeks ahead of time – bring your seed tuber out to allow it to warm up naturally and encourage early shoots. To plant, ensure your bucket has holes in it for drainage. Fill to around 2/3rd with the compost – or alternative growing media – you want to use. Firm down and place the taewa on top. Cover with more compost to fill the bucket around 4/5th in volume, water in well and put in a sheltered and warm site to encourage the tuber to grow.
As it grows, ensure the shoots are not damaged - especially watch out for slugs and snails. Encourage early growth with a nitrogen based product such as liquid seaweed. Periodic feeding afterwards should support the plant growth and there are a wide range of dry or liquid fertiliser type products to choose from: choose something to suit potato plants. Remember to keep the plant watered at least twice a week – and ensure the bucket drains properly so it is not waterlogged.
You can harvest your produce after around 3 months, usually the top greenery of the plant will be showing signs of dying back indicating taewa are probably ready to harvest and eat. There is no urgency to harvest as these crops are good for ground storage providing they do not become waterlogged. So cut off the tops and allow to dry off completely and then harvest the plant whenever you want. Plants allowed to grow-on and dry off naturally will usually produce taewa that are larger in size and will store longer.
Don’t forget to keep at least one of the resulting tubers as a seed for the following season.
If you have any queries regarding your taewa or how to manage the plant then feel free to contact one of our Tahuri Whenua committee by email at firstname.lastname@example.org