The best kinds of aruhe, or fern-root, at the north were known by the general names of maahunga=mealy, and motuhanga=brittle, easily snapping. Here, however, on the East Coast, the best kinds were called kaitaa= gentlemen's food, and renga=mealy.
The motuhanga was really a splendid sort. I have seen it, a fine-looking black-skinned smooth root, eight to ten lines in diameter, with scarcely any woody fibres, and these were small, like a very fine rush, lustrous, hollow, and white. It would snap readily, like good biscuit, before being prepared or beaten.
Then the best was again separated, thus:—
kowhiti=best selected; for the chiefs.
Huirau=a hundred together in company; for warriors. This was stored up in their hill-forts for sieges and fighting times*
Paka=dried; for general feasts.
Ngapehapeha=rinds, skins; for common daily use.
There were also other names for the third best and inferior sorts, as pakakohi=dried and gathered scraps; pitopito=ends; and pakupaku=small in size (broken parts of the choicer kinds); tuakau, pararaa, etc., etc.—(See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XII., p. 122, Proverb 55.)
[Footnote] * This kind was what Cook, Crozet, and others of their early European visitors saw stored up largely in their forts and fighting places, which quantities excited their astonishment. Moreover, the Maoris would not sell them any.