Monday, June 13, 2011

I found one!

I've been wanting to find one ever since I first saw it in a book on native trees - that was about 40 years ago. I even planted a tree, but it never fruited, maybe because it needed to be a female. 
It's a titoki berry. And today I found my first one ever. There it was on the pavement, like a lucious little strawberry inside an acorn-like cup. It looked good enough to eat, but evidently they don't taste fantastic, even though Maori children used to eat them.
There's one, up in the tree, hidden inside the brown seed cases. You would never know they were there, except that I happened to spot some red stains on the pavement, and then found the one intact berry.

It's the little black seed inside the enticing red flesh that was of value to Maori, for the seed contains the finest oil they knew. It was quite a business extracting it, involving mashing up the fruit and washing away the flesh, then pounding the seeds and placing them inside a long, tough kete - flax basket. With a stick at either end, two people could then wind the basket in opposite directions to squeeze out the oil.
It was used in perfumes, and as a much prized hair oil.

The amazing thing is that the fruit-bearing titoki tree is next door to where I now live. I could so easily have missed it, but I'm learning to watch out for things as I take my walks, and keeping this blog is honing my powers of observation.
The titoki doesn't fruit every year; in fact there's a proverb that says a tree bears fruit kia puta tana hiahia —when it wants to. So both the titoki and me had to be ready to find each other.
I'm so happy to have found this beautiful, lush little gem!

11 comments:

Joan said...

Now that is extraordinary Juliet. I have never seen a titoki berry in all my life.
I agree ..photography, blogging and living by the seasons, sharpens the observational skills. I will be on the lookout for a titoki berry now!

juliet said...

Good luck with finding one Joan!

Max said...

I've never heard of a Titoki before; well spotted and thanks for bringing these to my attention :0)

lifeonthecutoff said...

Such an amazing discovery just waiting to be had. Of course, living way up here, I did not know to the titoki berry until now. What an interesting story behind it, both from your perspective as to its illusiveness, and of the berry itself and the part it played in the Maori traditions and culture.

Isn't it amazing the things we see? I used to journal more and most get back to that. Blogging certainly brings a fresh awareness and now with digital cameras I find I am looking for nature.

We heard that Christchurch has experienced some tremors and pray for all.

lifeonthecutoff said...

Me again.
I just read a poem on another blog that touched me and it reminded me of your words here and your discovery of the titoki berry. The post and poem are at this link and I think you will appreciate it, Juliet., and hope you have a few moments to enjoy it.
spindriftmaine.blogspot.com/2011/06/poem-for-today.html

juliet said...

Penny, how kind of you to send me that link. It's wonderful to find kindred spirits who are observing and recording the wonders of this world. We are like modern Thoreaus, with new equipment. Thank you.
All our prayers are with Christchurch once again.

Anonymous said...

Midwinter treasure!

Sue

spindrift,me said...

Three cheers to Penny for putting us together! Thank you for your lovely comment on my post, Juliet, and for signing up to follow me. Two writers who make art and are psychotherapists in our 'spare time'-- we have much in common. As people in Maine have struggled for months to arrive at warm and flower-y June, it is a little disconcerting to see leaves falling in your photos--but I will enjoy following along and learning more about you. So nice to meet you! ;o)

Lynley said...

This treasure shone like a jewel for me when I read your blog yesterday amid the sadness and concern over further events in Christchurch. Many thanks Juliet:-)

Anne Ruffell said...

What a wonderful treasure to find and interesting to hear how it has long been used by the Maori. It looked like a raspberry to me and reminded me of the pleasure I had in France of gathering bowls of raspberries for our breakfast. I had never had them stuffed inside a croissant before!

Jacque said...

I have a titoki tree, it was a baby sapling when I bought this house, 3 years ago, and now is around 10 feet tall.......but, no berries yet. I don't know if it's male or female, but it has some small greenish/yellow cluster things each year that could be flowers. I talk to it often and ask, where are the berries, come on, do something.