Kūmara was an essential crop for early Māori who, it is believed, brought them with them from Hawaiki more than 1000 years ago.
These starchy tubers are often referred to in other countries as sweet potatoes, and while they share these characteristics with potatoes, they are not from the same nightshade) family. A labour-intensive crop which is now mainly grown in Northland where frost-free conditions and higher temperatures prove the perfect combination. Harvested in late summer and early autumn, they emerge from the ground hard and starchy, lacking their characteristic sweet flavour so are stored for several months before marketing, during which time their starch is converted to sugar.
Steam, boil, bake, roast, fry, barbecue. Mash, puree, chip, turn into a soup, rostis, add to frittatas, curries and so much more.
Kūmara can be used where you would traditionally use potato – mash and top pies, bake whole in its skin and serve with herbed sour cream or grate and fry into rostis.
Its natural sweetness also means much of what you can do with pumpkin you can also do with kūmara. Enhance that sweetness with brown sugar and cinnamon or maple syrup. Cut through the sweetness with some orange juice or segments, or pair with herbaceous leaves like watercress or roquette for a delicious contrast.
Other flavours that pair well with kūmara include walnuts, raisins, coriander, curry leaves, chilli, chorizo and bacon.
There are around 400 varieties of kūmara, although commercially three main varieties are grown in New Zealand with a few more interesting varietals emerging, like Purple Dawn.
Red kūmara (Owairaka Red)
Has a deep red skin with a creamy white flesh which is often veined. This accounts for 75% of the total New Zealand crop.
Gold kūmara (Toka Toka Gold)
Has a golden skin and flesh, is sweeter than red kūmara and has a denser flesh.
Orange kūmara (Beauregard)
Has a orange skin and is an orange variety imported from America. A nuttier flavour than the others, it’s also the sweetest, but also has a shorter shelf life.
Has a purple skin and flesh. Developed by Plant & Food NZ, they are not as sweet as other kūmara varieties.
Most New Zealand kūmara is grown in Northland, around Dargaville. If there are significant weather events in that region, supply and pricing can be affected.
Being very versatile, it means there are all sorts of ways to get kūmara ready for your cooking. Our Prepared Produce options range from skin on and off, portions, wedges, chips, diced, sliced and grated formats. These options provide greater yield and more time for your kitchen.