One of the things we harvested this week was our crop of kumara (Ipomoea batatas – Maori sweet potatoes). We get our tupu (young plants) from the Koanga Institute. The institute holds a very special collection of ancient kumara, many of which come from pre-European times.
We grew the kumara in two long beds in our terraced vegetable garden, planting the tupu out in November and then basically leaving them to it over the Summer.
We grew two varieties this year:
This large, white skinned kumara, which comes from an ancient Far North collection, is described by Kay Baxter from Koanga Institute as: “The ultimate kumara, tastes like roasted chestnuts to me!”
This kumara is reddish pink right through and goes an intense deep purple when cooked. Kay Baxter believes this kumara to be an outstandingly nutrient dense variety.
Digging around in the earth with our hands feels like hunting for treasure! We’re not sure what’s a “good” crop, but we’re really chuffed with the amount that our plants produced. Once we’d harvested them all from the two beds, we laid them out on one of the beds to cure.
You can’t do much out in the garden around here without having some kind of input from the animals!
Meet Plum, he’s half Siamese and half big, black, wild tom cat. He has something to say about everything (in typical, deep Siamese tones). He may look a little crazy here, but he’s actually just come to say hello and see what we’re up to.
Just out of interest, this was our kumara harvest from last year. We tried out five different varieties, but only grew a couple of plants of each. As you can see, there was a big range of shape and colour.
They are (from left to right):
Maikio Gold (old commercial variety)
Maikio Red (old commercial variety)
Reka Rawa (see above)
(a volunteer pumpkin!)
Paraparapara (Pink. Reputed to be the old medicinal kumara that was used to feed the elderly, babies and invalids. From the Far North.)
Huti Huti (Cream, grows up to 60cm long! Old variety from the South Island. In the East Cape, Te Whanau a Apanui know it as the kumara to cook over the ashes of a fire when fishing at the beach.)