A television tour of New Zealand with Jade Temepara is more about kaitiakitanga than it is about food and gardening.
The 38-year-old mother of five runs a cafe and cookery school in Christchurch, and has been lauded for setting up Hand Over a Hundy, a scheme that helps families get started in gardening.
In March, for this 10-episode series, she set off on a tour of the country – specifically, her mates’ gardens – talking heritage, seed resilience and healthy kai.
Who’s on the list? Temepara rattles them off: food truck entrepreneurs Otis and Sarah Frizzell, musician Anna Coddington and league legend Tawera Nikau, who is pitching in to plant native trees in the Waikato area. Coco’s Cantina sisters Renee and Damaris Coulter pop up, too, and while in Auckland, Temepara stops in with her bestie, Sam Judd, who runs Sustainable Coastlines. “He talks a lot about the restoration of the waterways and links it in with mahinga kai, traditional food gathering, so that was really awesome.”
The first episode positively glows with good health and good intentions, minus any trace of sanctimony. There’s borage and basil and frangipani, figs and calendula, and cavolo nero everywhere you look.
Tiki Taane’s place in Papamoa gets a new vege garden – “get in there, ya little bugger,” Temepara mutters, whacking nails into macrocarpa sleepers – and the musician explains how he’s overhauled his lifestyle, going vegetarian, switching to solar power and driving an electric car.
Then it’s off to Waiheke Island, where Hinemoa Elder has built a flourishing vegetable garden and heritage orchard. Temepara gives her friend a hongi and a hug. They share figs and honey on the deck and marvel at the hugeness of Elder’s basil leaves and the hardiness of her heritage apple trees. They watch tūī nailing Elder’s figs – a moment that would have most garden-show hosts making a mad dash for the plastic netting, but not Temepara. She and Elder are just stoked the birds are there at all.
To round things off, Temepara cooks kōura tails and king prawns with horopito, kawakawa, chilli and citrus: can I get a nom nom?
But this is not really a show about cooking or gardening. It’s about kaitiakitanga: bridging the disconnect between people and the land.
Once we start working the whenua, the land, Temepara believes, we realise “how much we really want to protect it and take care of it”.
This article was first published in the August 25, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.