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Five imported delicacies contributing to Polynesian branding – Issue 15

Huri Translations has named the skins of the Polynesian Keyboard mobile application after 5 prominent and delicious food items found in Polynesia:

Fekika, Kūmara, Tahitian Vanilla, Hawaiian Macadamia & Samoan Cocoa.

The naming is no random choice. In fact, the five crops are not native to Polynesia, they were actually all introduced in the islands at different times and by different hands.

- Fekika is the Malay apple in Tongan language. The red and shiny fruit was introduced in Tonga by early Polynesians circa 1000 BC from Melanesia and South-East Asia. Fekika leaves have been used in traditional medicine too.

- Kūmara is the sweet potato in Māori language. According to various tribal sources, oral tradition has it that the tuber was introduced in Aotearoa by the hands of gods Rongo, Māui, Kahukura and Marihaka from Hawaiki, the legendary homeland. Scientists have demonstrated that kūmara originates from South America.

- Vanilla was first brought in Tahiti by French Admiral François Alphonse Hamelin in 1848. Researchers have, by comparing genetic markers, established that the fragrant black spice is a cross-breed from Central America that mutated genetically over time and adapted to the Tahitian climatic conditions.

- Macadamia was introduced in the Hawaiian islands in 1882 from Australia by British plant collector William Purvis, as an ornamental plant. The Australasian nut was popularized in Hawai'i and is often eaten grilled and salted or added in pieces of chocolate.

- Cocoa was shipped in the Samoan islands by Germans in 1893. Originally from central America, the bean is now well-integrated in the daily life of Samoan families who make Koko Sāmoa, a popular lightly fermented cocoa beverage.

From the early days of Polynesian settlement to the European colonization era, these five food delicacies reveal how introduced species have remarkably enriched the cultures of Polynesia and have contributed to the branding of the islands.