Introducing food plants
Early European explorers introduced a wide range of plants. In December 1769, French explorer Jean François Marie de Surville left wheat, peas and rice in New Zealand. In 1772, Marc Joseph Marion du Fresne planted wheat, maize, potatoes and various kinds of nuts on Moturua Island in the Bay of Islands.
In 1773, British explorer James Cook and navigator Tobias Furneaux planted a number of gardens in Queen Charlotte Sound, with plants such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cabbages, onions, leeks, parsley, radish, mustard, broad beans, kidney beans, peas, turnips and wheat. That same year, south of Cape Kidnappers, Cook gave the Māori chief Tuanui roots and seeds, including wheat, beans, peas, cabbages, turnips, onions, carrots, parsnips and yams.
Plants in the South Island
On Cook’s third voyage in 1777, he revisited the gardens sown by his crew and found them completely gone. Of Furneaux’s gardens there remained some cabbages, onions, leeks, purslane, radishes and a few potatoes.
By 1810, Māori at Foveaux Strait were growing and trading potatoes. These probably came from the Queen Charlotte Sound gardens and were distributed throughout the South Island through Ngāi Tahu networks. In 1820, the Russian explorer Fabian von Bellingshausen found Māori growing potatoes in Queen Charlotte Sound. Wild cabbage was widespread.
Plants in the North Island
Potatoes were grown at Thames as early as 1801, and traded in the Bay of Islands by 1805. These may have come from Marion du Fresne’s garden in the Bay of Islands – or from potatoes sent by Lieutenant-Governor Philip King of Norfolk Island in 1793.
Cabbage was widespread in Northland by 1807. Māori said that cabbage on the East Coast had come from that gifted by Cook to Tuanui.
Two pigs were gifted to Māori by de Surville at Doubtless Bay in 1769. During Cook’s second and third voyages, a number of boars and sows were released – most in Queen Charlotte Sound, but two breeding pairs were given to the Hawke’s Bay chief Tuanui. Wild pigs, in the South Island at least, may have originated from Cook’s voyages, and are generally known as Captain Cookers.
Cook also released a breeding pair of goats in 1773 and another pair in 1777. In 1773 he gave roosters and hens to Māori near Cape Kidnappers, and left two hens and three cocks in Queen Charlotte Sound. In late 1773, Furneaux’s men observed chickens in the bush laying eggs.
Pigs in the North Island
In 1793, Governor Philip King of Norfolk Island gave 12 pigs to Tukitahua, one of two northern Māori chiefs who had been kidnapped and taken to Norfolk Island. By 1795 only one animal was left. King then established relations with the northern chief Te Pahi, and sent a total of 56 pigs in three ships in 1804 and 1805. It is probably from these, and by being gifted between tribes, that pigs became established in the North Island. From 1805 Māori were trading pigs to Europeans.
Other stock and crops
In 1814 the first cattle and horses were brought to the Bay of Islands by missionary Samuel Marsden. Around 1819, an American whaler introduced a sweet potato variety that was larger than those grown by Māori. Quickly adopted by Māori, it became known as merikana (American). Governor King had gifted maize in 1793, and this was well established by 1816. Māori roasted it in embers, or fermented the cobs and made cakes.
By 1827, watermelons and peaches were common enough to be traded to Europeans in the Bay of Islands.