Gardener:Somerset Sue

Date:26 Jan 2022

Blog Type:Vegetables, Recipes

I have always wanted to grow red kumara and several years ago decided to have a go. But there was a "small" catch. Kumara needs a hard pan of clay or, if you don't have clay, something to stop the roots going too far down. So Super Husband and I dug out one of our vegie patches a foot down, put roofing iron down and then filled it all in again. We both felt the pain the next day!

Kumara needs a long warm growing season - as long as you can stretch it between frosts, so we planted in early October.

The first lot of kumara slips I put in didn't look that healthy when I bought them but I went ahead and planted them anyway. They lasted about a week before giving up. So I shopped around and found some nice healthy looking slips that had been propogated at a local nursery. They not only looked better, they actually grew, which is always a plus.

Being a virgin kumara cultivator I'd googled and read up about how they should be planted. There are a few different methods but I chose to plant the slips slightly on the side of heaped rows. Quite a few of the sites and books I read also suggested they don't like to be watered too much once they are established. The long tendrils they put out need to be lifted regularly to ensure they don't root in the ground which will take some of the energy from the developing tubers. We let them do their thing and I managed to hold myself back until mid-April when we dug up our crop.

It was so exciting! We harvested 25 kilo of kumara. Many of them were little sweeties, but we got some good sized ones as well. I stored them in between sheets of newspaper in my Girl Hut and checked them regularly to ensure they didn't deteriorate. They kept well for a couple of months before starting to soften slightly. At this point I decided to freeze the remainder by par-boiling them and then free-flowing them in bags. We were able to enjoy our kumara at least once a week for a full year. before I ran out. By then the next lot were planted.

We didn't have as much success the following year so this season we're resting that garden, planting it with leafy veges. Instead we have planted our Kumara in stacks of tyres, I tried this at a school vegie garden I was volunteering at and we got a modest crop of really good sized tubers.

I'll let you know how it works out in April!