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Storing and Curing of Kumara

Kumara only has 1 harvest annually, so storage becomes a crucial part of the journey onto the supermarket shelves. Bad storage can lead to the product losing weight, shrivelling and bringing low returns back to the grower with a low quality product for New Zealanders.

Kumara Storage has long been a practice, dating right back to when early Maori in New Zealand, when kumara was even then a key part of their diet! Pictured are 3 kumara storage pits that were in use in the 1930s. According to history, pits were dug into the side of earth banks with wooden doorways and reinforcing added. This also helped give protection against pests and thieves.

The process of ‘curing’ requires careful management and a knowledge of the crop as it comes in from the field. Each block has to be treated differently and careful storage to keep the sheds organised as we progress through the year.

As the bins come in from the field, our Storage Manager will unload into temperature controlled sheds to start the process of ‘curing’.

Curing is a process where the produce is held in specific climate conditions for a short direction, then moved to a very different storage condition.

Kumara’s sweet spot for curing is high humidity for the first few days.

At our harvest, our motto is ‘treat them like eggs’. Vastly differently to the average potato, kumara are a very delicate crop to harvest so they take careful handling.

As the kumara goes through the process of curing, this helps form a layer of ‘suberin’ – a waxy substance covering the tuber. This toughens the kumara skin making them easier to pack and ultimately a better quality product that lasts longer on the supermarket shelf.

Curing also converts some of the starch in this high-starch vegetable, to natural sugars,  by triggering the sugar-producing enzymes in the kumara. This gives them a better taste overall.

Maori History Source: https://teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/40255/kumara-storage-pits-1930

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Why is Dargaville the Kumara Capital?

You’ll often hear of the phrase “The Kumara Capital of New Zealand”. And it makes us wonder, does everyone actually know where this is and the reason behind it?

Dargaville is the Kumara Capital of New Zealand. And it stands with good reason, as 95% of kumara you’ll find in your supermarket comes from the Kumara Capital.

Dargaville is a small farming town located 2 hours north of Auckland. Only a short 10 minutes from the West Coast and winding alongside the Northern Wairoa River, the land in the Dargaville region is typically quite flat.

Kumara growing in the Kaipara region dates right back to early Maori times where kumara was a long lasting crop for the tribes to store and they included it in their diets most of the year.

And do we really know why it is called the Kumara Capital?

Most will tell you it’s because of the shallow clay bed that makes up a lot of the land on the river plains near the Wairoa River. Kumara grow well in the alluvial plains of the northern Kaipara Region. Rich top-soil of the river plains is furrowed to a depth which ensure a good-looking well-shaped kumara crop. This shallow clay bed means the kumara, which is a root crop, grows to a good depth, before hitting the  clay layer.

Another reason is because the Kaipara region also has a very tropical climate, with warm summers and very mild winters. Kumara are a subtropical plant, grow best in tropical areas. The average temperature in the Kaipara is relatively high with our warm nights and high sunshine hours.  We typically have more sunshine than other parts of Northland even.