Kumara

Kumara (sweet potato) has a long history of cultivation in New Zealand.

Brought here by early Maori settlers, over one thousand years ago from Pacific islands, this bush which had much smaller tubers was widely grown, especially in the semi-tropical regions of the North Island. Pre-European Maori managed kumara-growing with great skill. They grew several different varieties of 'bush' kumara, but compared to the varieties we eat today, they were very small in size, being no bigger than a finger. Modern kumara grows on a creeping vine and evolved from a larger American variety with bigger tubers and better taste which was imported in the early 1850s. The majority of kumara is grown in Northland in the Northern Wairoa region where soil type and climatic conditions suit it perfectly.

There are different varieties of kumara, however, only three main varieties are commercially available in New Zealand. The most common is the red-skinned, Owairaka Red, which has a creamy white flesh and is sold as Red; gold kumara, sometimes sold as Toka Toka Gold, has a golden skin and flesh, and a sweeter taste than red; orange kumara, sometimes sold as Beauregard, has a rich orange flesh and is sweeter than both red and gold. Beauregard kumara can be used instead of yams in North American recipes.

What to look for

Look for kumara that are firm with smooth and unbroken skin. Date stamped product packaging gives a reliable measure of freshness. Buy regularly, no more than a week’s supply.

Availability

All year.

Cooking Methods

Braise, bake, boil, char grill, microwave, roast, steam, stew, stir fry, stuff.

Ways to eat

Kumara is a very versatile vegetable; it can be mashed, barbecued, used in soups, stir fries, pies, quiches, braises or stews; cooked as chips or wedges or baked whole; thin kumara slices will puff up into crisps. To use kumara in salads, cook first until soft, and cool. Kumara goes well with all meats and also complements fruits such as banana, pineapple, apricot and apple.

How to prepare

Peel, wash and portion. However, it is not always necessary to peel kumaras; if leaving skin on, scrub skin well and remove blemishes.

Storing

Kumara should be stored in a cool, dark place that is well ventilated. Do not refrigerate.

Nutrition

Raw - Red Kumara

Serving size: 1 medium kumara 135g
 Average
Quantity
per serving 
% Daily
intake per
serve 
Average
Quantity
per 100g 
 
Energy (kJ/Cal) 490/117 5.60% 363/87  
Protein (g) 1.69 3.40% 1.25  
Fat, total (g) 0.28 0.40% 0.21  
 - saturated (g) 0.077 0.20% 0.057  
Carbohydrate (g) 25.38 8.20% 18.8  
 - sugars (g) 7.02 7.80% 5.2  
Dietary fibre (g) 2.43 8.0% 1.8 Contains dietary fibre
Sodium (mg) 37.8 1.60% 28  
Niacin (mg) 3.59 35.9% RDI* 2.66 A good source of niacin
Vitamin C (mg) 43.47 10.87% RDI* 32.2 A source of vitamin C
Potassium (mg) 683   506 Contains potassium
Vitamin B6 (mg) 0.148 9.3% RDI* 0.11  
Iron (mg) 0.72 6% RDI* 0.53  
Riboflavin (mg) 0.095 5.6% RDI* 0.07  
Vitamin A Equiv. (µg) 26.49 3.5% RDI* 19.62  
Vitamin E (mg) 0.27 2.7% RDI* 0.2  
Calcium (mg) 21.6 2.7% RDI* 16  
Zinc (mg) 0.28 2.3% RDI* 0.21  
Folate (µg) 3.78 1.9% RDI* 2.8  
Selenium (µg) 0.16 0.2% RDI* 0.12  
Thiamin (mg) 0.135 12.3% RDI* 0.1  

Percentage Daily Intakes are based on an average adult diet of 8700 kJ
Your daily Intakes may be higher or lower depending on your energy needs.
*Recommended Dietary Intake (Average Adult)

Source: The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables, 10th Edition, Plant & Food Research - 2014

Kumara is a source of vitamin C and a good source of niacin plus contains dietary fibre and a dietary significant amount of potassium.  Being one of the highest carbohydrate containing vegetables makes kumara an excellent source of energy. The coloured flesh and skin of kumara supply an array of phytonutrients including phenolic compounds, flavonoids and carotenoids.  Red or purple varieties contain anthocyanins (found in the skin of red varieties), and those with orange and yellow colouring are rich in beta-carotene. The richer the colour the more phytonutrients present.

Retailing

Buy small quantities regularly and employ good stock rotation principles. Handle kumara with care, they are not as hardy as they look and they do bruise easily. Rough treatment will shorten storage and shelf life and cause costly wastage. When stacking crates or boxes on top of each other, the weight must be borne by the crates, or boxes, and not the product. Only buy product packed in boxes that are strong enough to withstand the weight.

Store at 13-17°C with a relative humidity of 75-80%. Kumara should be stored in a cool, dark well ventilated place. Kumara should never be refrigerated or stored at less than 12°C as this will result in chilling damage which results in shrivelling, increased decay, surface pitting and sometimes causes a hard core to develop. This hard core will fail to soften during cooking. Sprouting becomes a problem at higher storage temperatures.

Kumara are ethylene sensitive so store separately from ethylene producing fruits and vegetables. Use the QR code on labels.

Purchase kumara with the New Zealand GAP logo.

Recipes

Caramelised roast vegetable salad
Caramelised roast vegetable salad

Roasting onions with beetroot and kumara in this citrus glaze gives a delicious dish. View Recipe

Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs can be made with any vegetable that can be mashed; they are so popular with little kids. View Recipe

Lasagne
Lasagne

Lasagne lovers will enjoy this tasty version with plenty of vegetables. View Recipe

View more Recipes

Images

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