Move over, yams! There’s another sweet potato that’s been enriching our lives with vitamins and starchy sweetness for over a thousand years.
Meet the kumara, a sweet starchy root vegetable commonly grown in the North Island of New Zealand. Kumara travelled many miles to New Zealand from the Pacific Islands in the hands of Maori settlers and quickly became a staple of Maori diets. It’s no wonder the Maori brought kumara on their long voyages; they are a rich source of antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and Vitamins A, C, and E. They are also fat free and gluten free, so they make for an excellent and nutritious snack that meets a variety of dietary needs.
Better yet, there are three varieties of kumara, eaching offering its own distinctive flavor. Red kumara (Owairaka) is the most widely used variety of kumara in New Zealand; it has red skin with a creamy yet firm flesh. Gold kumara (Toka Toka) has a golden skin and a slightly sweeter taste, while the rich orange kumara (Beauregard) is the sweetest of them all. All vareties can be steamed, baked, mashed, or cooked. You can even add them to a salad, used them as a soup base, or incoporate them into baked goods.
Cultivating kumara does, however, require months of strenuous labor and, as a result, kumara generally costs more than a potato. Plant beds are prepared and seeded in July, August and September. The seedlings are then transplanting into fields in October, November and December, where workers must constantly guard against weed growth and disease. Finally, the mature roots are manually or mechanically harvested in early spring so that you can add nutrient rich sweetness to your morning hashbrowns or your dinner routine.
Want to add kumara to your diet? Try this Sweet Potato (Kumara) Wedges Recipe!
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 large sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Drizzle a medium baking sheet with the vegetable oil.
- In a large resealable plastic bag, mix the flour, paprika, mustard powder, salt, and pepper. Place the sweet potato wedges in the bag, and toss to coat.
- Arrange coated sweet potato wedges on the baking sheet. Bake 20 to 30 minutes until browned and crisp.