Known as sweet potato in other parts of the world, Kūmara is known to us Kiwis as one of New Zealand’s national vegetables, if you’ve thought about growing kūmara at your place, read on for our top growing tips.
Kūmara plants are tender plants and they prefer soil that is well drained, we recommend planting on a hard base, like in a pot, container or planter box to prevent the tubers running too deep or too skinny. Whether you decide to plant, red, orange or gold Kūmara, here’s how to grow them successfully.
When to plant Kūmara
In warmer areas of New Zealand, Kūmara are best planted in August right up until December. In cooler areas, it is best to wait until frost has eased completely before planting your Kūmara, usually between late October to late December.
Where to plant Kūmara
Kūmara tubers love a sunny spot with rich and warm soil. Kūmara need plenty of room to grow and spread out, they grow in a green vine like fashion so make sure you leave room between each tuber.
Kūmara are also grown as ground cover and to condition soil, as their vine like foliage can act to suppress weeds and their roots can improve the structure of the soil they are planted in.
Kūmara absorb nutrients from the soil to grow, so it is recommended that you keep your soil well stocked up on nutrients. Using a fertiliser will provide these nutrients and in the long run your taste buds will thank you.
Keep your Kūmara very well watered; the better nourished your Kūmara is, the better chance of success it will have – plus it will help to keep insects and pests away. Be sure to not cut away the runners, simply lift them away from the soil to avoid them forming surface roots and stealing nutrients from the Kūmara itself.
It can sometimes be tricky to know when to harvest your Kūmara, a good rule to follow is that Kūmara generally take about 5 months from planting until they are ripe and ready to be harvested. It helps to dig up one or two first and check for size, firmness or skin. A good tip is to cut a Kūmara into one or two pieces to see how quickly the cut sides will dry out, if they do dry up quickly, then they are mature and ready to store. Wait until the weather has been dry for a few days before harvesting for the best Kūmara.
Our favourite Kūmara recipe: Crispy Carrot, Kūmara & Haloumi Rosti