Professor Nick Roskrug, an ethnobotanist from the Ngāti Rāhiri hapū of Te Ātiawa (New Zealand), made a career of crops and potatoes. Taewa – the potato that has developed an identity, flavor and texture unique to Aotearoa – is her favorite. The most common type of tawa is the purple potato called tetakuru. Taiwa, however, is more than just a little purple potato.
Taiwa colors come in all shapes and sizes. There is a tawa with dark brown skin and a purple inside; pale white on the inside and golden yellow on the outside; Reddish brown leather and orange interior.
The origin of Taiwa is controversial. All potatoes are native to South America, including the kumara. But unlike the Kumara, Roskrug says that Taiwa is not found in the surviving Maori oral history.
Professor Nick Roskrug says Tawa has a unique and special relationship with Maori. “While growing up, we all had crops and foods that we were familiar with. Most of it was passed down through the generations. It became part of our identity, and it was very important in terms of hospitality. The food that came from your home, that was what you put on the table.”
Potatoes in the supermarket tend to develop on a commercial scale and on a standardization basis. But he says Taiwa cannot easily be grown on a commercial scale. “They tend to have a lot of taiwa on the rootstock, which makes them a little smaller because they are competing for growth.”