SANZ Members
Indigenous People


Indigenous People


Seaweeds are collectively called rimu or rimurimu in the Maori language. Early Maori would have been familar with a green alga now called Caulerpa which is common in tropical Polynesia. The New Zealand native rimu tree's hanging tresses looked very like the green seaweed Caulerpa brownii (sea rimu) which is found from Hawkes Bay south. The rimu tree was named after the seaweed and not vice versa.

Human use of seaweeds has never been great in New Zealand. Unlike the Japanese, for whom seaweed is an important component of the diet, the immigrants to NZ both Maori and Pakeha, largely overlooked seaweed in favour of the fruits of the land.

Southern Maori did, however, harvest Porphyra columbina , which they named Karengo - this seaweed species  is a traditional Maori delicacy. Karengo is a close relation of the most popular edible kelp in the world, the Japanese nori.

Karengo is picked off the rocks and dried immediately to stop it from going mouldy. It is delicious either:

1. broken into mouth sized pieces, soaked in water and rinsed. Put into a pot with a knob of butter, covered with water and simmered until tender. This could take up to an hour. It is rather like cooking pasta - the karengo is ready when it is al dente and it looks like a bowl of cooked spinach pasta too.

2. As karengo chips. Put dried karengo into a hot wok or pan with a little oil. Cook until crisp - great with a cold beer.

3. As a hot soup - Roast karengo under the grill and crumble it into a cup of hot water.

4. Maori & Welsh cultures  come together in laver bread. Spread clean fronds of karengo on a plate sprinkled with oatmeal. Further layers of oatmeal and seaweed are laid on top, finishing with a layer of oatmeal. Roll the sheets into a wad, slice with a sharp knife and fry in bacon fat or butter.

Southern Maori also used the wide blades of Durvillaea antarctica or bull kelp, as storage bags or poha titi to store the mutton birds (titi) in their own fat - a method still used today.