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Cordyline sp. Tī tawhiti. Tī para.

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TĪ TAWHITITĪ PARAtī pore (Best); ti māhongetī papatī tahanui (included in Williams 1971 for unknown edible varieties) 

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A Cordyline species cultivated for food. Now known to be the cultivar Cordyline 'ti tawhiti', sold by Duncan and Davies for many years as Cordyline kirkii. See Harris & Heenan 1991. A sport of Cordyline australis.

Tī para described by Colenso 1880, "culitvated by the old Maoris as an article of food...; propagated by its side-shoots and suckers. Its thick succulent stem, as big as, or bigger than, that of a very large cabbage or brocoli [sic], was cooked and eaten. In these parts, however (Hawke's Bay), it has become very rare; indeed, I only know of the plants now growing in my own garden; which I raised from a single plant I found in an an old Maori cultivation belonging to the father of the present aged chief Tareha, in 1845. I have had some dozens of plants from it, and although they were very healthy and grew well, not one of them ever flowered! in this respect resembling both the kumara and taro. It grows to 4-5 feet in height, never quite erect; and then it sends out suckers from below ground and from its stem, and dies. Thirty years ago, whenever some of the oldest chiefs here should happen to see this plant growing in my garden, they would invariably longingly beg for its stems to cook for a meal, saying how much they liked it. Its leaf is shorter and broader and of a finer texture than that of C. australis, with slightly recurved edges, and its bark is also much thinner , and smooth, not rugged. ...I provisionally named it C. edulis. It was formerly cultivated extensively, both at Waikato and Upper Whanganui, also here in Hawke's Bay, and in other places; and, from what I have heard from the Maoris, there also it did not produce flowers."

Best (1907) thought tī-para might be C. terminalis, but in Part III of Forest Lore (1910), quotes Cheeseman as saying that tī-para, a cultivated Cordyline, is definitely not C. terminalis. Cordyline terminalis is so easily affected by frost that it is difficult to rear even around Auckland.

Best 1902 says tī para was the most highly-prized Cordyline. Both trunk and taproot eaten. Didn"t grow wild, only as a cultivated plant. Variety said to have been eaten by chiefs only

Best 1907 says that very few plants now exist in Urewera. Much esteemed as food. Whole plant edible. Outside not removed when placed in steam oven. When stem 3 ft.- 4 ft., bent down till upper part reaches ground, that part covered with earth. Takes root where covered. Then bent trunk cut out, cooked and eaten. Whern young plant grows up it is terated in similar manner. "A small sucker planted in my camp garden two years ago is now 2 ft. in height, and has about a hundred leaves, which are 1 and 1/2 in. wide in the middle."

Rev. Williams says that tī-para of Tūhoe found at Moa-whango. Percy Smith states that it resembles tī tawhiti. A plant growing in Best"s garden at Rua-toki "has now (August 1909) a stem about 30 in. high, and has about a dozen young plants or shoots growing up from the base thereof. The plant is four years old." (Best 1909 : 478).

"Tī para used to be highly thought of. The root was prepared like fern root, being pounded on a flat log or stone to break up the fibre in the pulpy mass. This was cooked in a hangi for several hours, and when cooked appeared as a gluey mass. It had a sweet taste. It was stored in a pataka and kept a long time. When one was travelling for long distances, or in a time of war when there was nothing else, it was most satisfying". (Makereti 1938)

Tī tawhiti is a Taranaki name. Tawhiti can mean foreign, from abroad.

Te Rangi Hiroa (1949) suggested it might apply to Cordyline terminalis.

"The form cultivated by the Upper Wanganui natives - so far as an opinion can be formed from the foliage of young plants only - is closely related to C. australis, but I believe the flowers are unknown" A footnote gives the native name as tī-tawhiti (Kirk 1874).

Best 1907: Ti tawhiti said to be distinct from tī-para. Was in former times a prized article of food. "It does not apear to have grown, or been cultivated in this district, or at least not in the interior, but the name is known to the old men. The following remark was made by a local Native before the Land Commission: "He ti tawhiti te o i mate ai te tahi tangata o Rotorua, na reira i tapaia taua ingoa ki tetahi wahine o konei. (a ti-tawhiti was the last food partaken of by a certain dying person at Rotorua, hence that name was given to a woman of this place)".

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28 May 2007
3 August 2021
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