What is the potential for an indigenous New Zealand tree species to commercially produce edible syrup?
Maui Duley has been exploring the published literature, stories and history to begin answering this question, as part of a summer student project at Lincoln University. Maui is interested in ethnobotany – the study of how people of a particular culture and region make use of indigenous (native) plants.
In his 22/23 summer project, Maui observed a gap in published written literature, with little to no mention of sap content in native New Zealand plant species or chemical composition (except for manuka and kanuka). There is also little to no published historical stories on our native plants.
Yet, each tree/plant has importance to Māori people, indicated within the stories shared. There is Mātauranga Māori (indigenous knowledge) on extraction for rongoā (medicine), food and drink from indigenous trees.
In talking to Māori kaumatua (elders), Maui learned about uses for tarata, matai and miro, and is curious about the potential of rata and pohutukawa. Maui will continue this study in a Masters research project, where he aims to identify native plants with suitable sap content for consumption and to expand on existing mātauranga.