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Te Huka (Sugar)

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Te Huka (Sugar)

Sugar provides vital energy but it can be pretty hard to resist, and not just for humans. It motivates our pollinating pepeke (insects) and energises kākā. Without huka (sugar), much of the mahi nui (hard work) done by West Auckland orchardists would be, well, fruitless.

Golden Syrup tin, printed metal, purchased 2015.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Pour a little pot of gold

Did you know that all our processed huka (sugar) used to come from Australia?

Imagine having to rely on the Aussies for a bit of mīere (golden syrup) on your panikeke (pancakes). In 1884, the Chelsea Sugar Refinery opened for business by the ākau (sea shore) in Birkenhead.

It’s still open all day, ia rā (every day) and pumps out about 200,000 tonnes of sugar a year. That’s about 40 million teaspoons. Sweet.

Buzz buzz, here come the bees

All bees feed on sugary waihonga (nectar) and pollen but not all of them produce honey.

Did you know there are around 17 species of native bees found in Auckland? None of them make mīere (honey) but they play a hugely important role (alongside honey bees) in pollinating our otaota (plants). These busy bees keep our ngahere māori (native forests) and other habitats hauora (healthy).

And here’s a curious fact: a Miss Bumby (true!) was responsible for bringing the honey bee (Apis mellifera) here from Ingarangi (England) in 1839.

Bees collected in the late 1900s.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

This way to sweet grapes

West Auckland has been the oko huarākau (fruit bowl) of Auckland since the late 1800s.

The hand-painted pānui (sign) shown below was nailed to the kēti (gate) of the ‘Mt Lebanon Vinery’ owned by Lebanese migrant Assid Abraham Corban, or AA for short. Back then in the early 1900s he sold more sweet grapes than wāina (wine), but by the 1960s Corban’s winery was the country’s largest.

At the same time, many people from Dalmatia (a coastal province of Croatia) moved to West Auckland and also made their ingoa (names) producing fruit and wine. Do you grow your own fruit?

Sign, c.1900, tin, hand painted.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

The one and only huakiwi (kiwifruit)

Sugar is at the heart of one of New Zealand’s most well-known icons.

Sometimes the best things grow in your own māra kāinga (backyard), as Jack found with his beanstalk. At his home in Avondale, Hayward Wright created a new variety of kiwifruit.

He must have been chuffed when they whakaingoa (named) the huarākau (fruit) after him. His sales pitch was a sugary hit: 'sweet and delicious for tiāmu (jams), jellies and fruit salads, it is unsurpassed'. Now the Hayward variety is our most popular green kiwifruit and is grown around the ao (world).

Jars of Kiwifruit.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

The sweet and cheeky kākā

It’s not only tāngata (humans) who have a sweet tooth.

Kākā birds have a passion for fruit, berries, nectar and sap. On Aotea (Great Barrier Island), you can spot them hanging around in rākau (trees) lapping up the sweet stuff. They scoop up the juice with their brush-tipped arero (tongue) and the sugar rush gives them extra energy to search for tasty tunga (grubs).

North Island kākā, Nestor meridionalis, collected by W. J. Cheeseman 1878, Titirangi.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Cite this article

MacFarlane, Kirsten. Te Huka (Sugar). Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 5 June 2015. Updated: 21 June 2016.

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