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11 Pages

Diet of the Maoris of New Zealand

WithR. E. Wright-St Clair

The Maoris are a Polynesian people who migrated to New Zealand from other Pacific Islands. New Zealand had a rich variety of birds, but there were no indigenous land animals except bats. There was a Maori dog which had been brought on the migrating canoes and was bred for food but was never in sufficient supply to be an everyday item of diet. The karaka tree appears to have been the only plant which the Maoris cultivated artificially for its fruit. The berries contain a poisonous alkaloid but prolonged steeping in water and cooking makes them edible and they were a welcome addition to the diet. Maori diet was changing by the addition of European foods but its basic structure remained remarkably unchanged. Jean-Rene-Constant Quoy, a naval physician who served as zoologist on Astrolabe, gave this description of the Maori diet at that period.