First, Jade Temepara’s grandfather asked her to plant some potatoes. “No way,” she said, “I’m not going to dig up my lawn.” Then he cajoled her to plant potatoes, then nagged, coaxed, urged and nagged again. Worn down, she eventually planted the potatoes, watched them grow, observed the land and how it reacted. On the day she dug them up, her grandfather turned to her. “Thank you,” he said, “I took these peruperu out of my father’s shed when he passed away. They’re five generations old and I don’t have anyone else to give them to.”
“I only began to understand the importance of seeds then,” Jade explains. “When Māori voyaged we took our people, we took our seeds and took hope that we could go and make somewhere else a new home.”
From this sprouted Jade’s fervour for seed heritage and she now has a collection of 260 different seed lines, second only in New Zealand to Kay Baxter of the Koanga Institute.
Over recent months Jade has had the mammoth task of transplanting some of her heritage plants, tenderly bedding them into the gardens surrounding her new cafe premises. Started 21⁄2 years ago, Jade’s Kākano Cafe and Cookery School has just relocated to Christchurch’s Manchester Street, opening in March 2018 in the One Central precinct. Now that spring is here, around 40 heritage plants are starting to flourish. “It’s a bit of a metaphor for the whole city – new things are appearing that weren’t expected,” says Jade.
More than just a cafe, Kākano (which means ‘seed’) is a social enterprise which Jade established to teach families in her community what she has learned about health, lifestyle and wellbeing. She wants to help people embrace traditional food, food gathering and growing to enhance their health and nutrition. Serving a predominantly Māori menu, the cafe aims to use foraged kai as much as possible.
“There’s a beautiful story to tell about food that comes from the land,” explains Jade. “To say, ‘I caught that, I know the whakapapa of the land where that came from’. What’s special to me is that if I put horopito in a dish it’s not from a packet, but my kids and I picked that and dried it. I’m fortunate that I know the ancestry of where that food came from and can honour that. I’m fortunate to interact with the land and feel my place in the world. I’m a recipient of the land teaching me things, and I can channel that into different platforms.”
Already an Ellerslie Flower Show medal winner and former New Zealand Gardener of the Year, her most recent venture is hosting the TV show He Kākano, which began screening in August 2018 on Māori TV. Across 10 episodes the show promises to impart simple skills for how to get green, organic and healthy; to demonstrate the art of growing kai organically from seed and to change how we grow, nurture and cook our food. “I want to show people a healthy lifestyle, to inspire people to give something a go, to take the first steps, then learn by natural progression and add things into your life as you go through. I’m a life learner from my experiences of learning from the land.”
Jade describes both her grandfathers as “men of the land” and it would appear that with Jade their wisdom has landed on good soil.