When the cluster of stars known in New Zealand as Matariki (aka the Pleiades) appears in the winter sky, Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand), celebrate their New Year. Matariki is a time for remembering ancestors and celebrating new life. Traditionally, tribes would celebrate with storytelling, the building of kites and shared feasts.
Charles Royal, New Zealand’s most famous Maori chef, runs a food and foraging adventure company that introduces manuhiri (guests) to Maori food traditions and the extraordinary natural beauty of the central North Island. Charles learned about traditional Maori food and cooking methods from Nanny Cinny, his maternal grandmother.
It’s Matariki now. Everything is in its full growth. It’s all got to do with the stars, the moon and the effect they have on the planet. You don’t understand it until you go into the bush. The abundance is unbelievable.
The North Island’s lush native forests are a natural pantry and medicine chest. Soft new pikopiko (fern fronds) taste like fresh green peas. Horopito leaves are the Maori bush pepper. Heart-shaped kawakawa leaves are used as a food seasoning and as a healing medicine. Pukurau (edible puffballs) are eaten fresh, while their spores are used to treat burns.