The first Māori immigrants came from warmer climates and had to adapt horticultural methods to suit New Zealand conditions. Around the country, there is evidence of large cultivations which were positioned to exploit sunlight and shelter and included features such as elaborate terracing, stone walls and pathways. Early Māori also improved the natural soil fertility by adding vegetable matter, wood ash, sand and fine gravel. Their understanding of cultivation and the practises employed allowed the successful growing of crops like kumara, which traditionally require a long, warm season.
The Māori lunar calendar guided planting, harvesting, fishing and hunting. Find out more here
Māori have a history of international trading and entrepreneurship that stretches back to at least the 1790s. As whalers and colonial settlers began to arrive in New Zealand, Māori adapted their horticultural skills and gardens to produce potatoes, corn, cabbages, turnips, squash, swedes and other sought after introduced crops. Peaches were also grown around kāinga (villages) from stones that had been given by traders and other early Europeans. Missionaries like William Colenso planted and distributed fruit trees and vegetable plants in the Hawke’s Bay region.
Europeans also brought new technology such as iron tools and new varieties of traditional crops, such as kumara.
Fruit, vegetables, flax, pigs, fowls and seafood were often sold from canoes, tied up at wharves and jetties, particularly in Auckland. Naturalist and pioneer William Swainson recorded that, in the 1850s, Auckland was visited annually by 100 overseas ships, 600 coastal vessels and nearly 2,000 canoes.