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The origins of kūmara (AKA Sweet Potato) are in South America; it’s believed Polynesian explorers voyaged there and brought back kūmara to the Pacific Islands.
Kūmara was first introduced into Aotearoa by Māori settlers a millennium ago. Because growing conditions are much colder than in Polynesia, Māori quickly acclimatised the plants and adapted their planting calendar to store kūmara over winter, then plant it out in summer.
The bigger kūmara cultivars we eat these days were introduced much later, again from South America – because kūmara was already firmly entrenched here as a dietary staple the new varieties were enthusiastically adopted by Māori and early European settlers.
For those of us living too far South to grow kūmara out in the garden, growing in a pot means it can be taken inside to protect from frosts, especially in the later growing season.