Kaipara Kumara’s are unforgetable

golden and red kumara's

golden and red kumara’s

Kaipara is known as the Kumara region in New Zealand, with Dargaville as its capital. We are lucky enough to go to the Kaipara a lot and so we’re never short of great local Kumara’s.The Kumara, or sweet potato got to New Zealnd with the first Polynesian explorers. It’s not certain how they got hold of it, but there is strong evidence they had sailed to South America, where the Kumara is native, before they got here. Thats a pretty amazing story.

I got introduced to Kumara in the early 90’s when i first backpacked around NZ. I got them served as part of a roast lamb dinner, and was blown away by that melting sweet taste. I did not understand that I had not had them before, that nobody had had the wits to introduce them in our potato eating country. I should have acted on that idea, as they are available everywhere now!

But I never forgot thattaste and was so happy seeing them again when I moved here.  I still love cooking with them and roasting is still a favorite with some good olive oil and fresh rosemary. Then eaten like that or cool them down and put in a salad with some feta and walnuts.Or make an amazing mash with some coconut milk.

Incredible imported almost natives

incredible Feijoas

incredible Feijoas

It wouldn’t surprise me that a lot of  New Zealanders see the feijoa as almost as Kiwi as the kiwifruit. Most gardens have a feijoa tree or hedge and in this time of year you see feijoas for sale everywhere.

The feijoa is not a native fruit, but then neither is the kiwifruit really. They have been introduced at some point by early settlers and thrive in New Zealand’s mild climate. I had not seen them or heard of them until I got to New Zealand. I remember coming into the office in April/May and seeing a bag of fairly bright green egg like fruits on the kitchen bench.They had to teach me that to eat them you cut them in half and then scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon. They have a very distinctive taste, soft sweet, sometimes slightly tangy. It doesn’t compare to anything else. I have grown very fond of them over the years, and it’s one of the things to look forward to in autumn. I eat them raw, or use them in salads, roast them with some chicken, or as i did this weekend, make a supercharged smoothie with banana, coconut milk, an orange and some linseed.

I (2)

Jerusalem Artichokes, nice to meet you!

 

Freshly harvested Jerusalem artichokes

Freshly harvested Jerusalem artichokes

Jerusalem Artichokes don’t look very appealing. Their flowers do, it’s just like a sunflower. Right yellow and tall. Very pretty.  And if you didn’t know you wouldn’t go digging for the root once the flower had died off. And you would certainly not expect that it is edible! But it’s worth digging for them, cleaning them up and cooking with them.

I got introduced to these knobbly roots in a little local restaurant just up the road. I loved them so much that I had a chat to the Maitre d’ about what they were and how they grow. He gave me a handful to try to grow them myself. Which I did! You basically just stick them in the ground and they will start growing. And growing.. Once you have them it’s hard to ever clear them all out as they create little tubers that go  everywhere and grow their own flowers. And so on. I you don’t have enough space, make sure you contain them in a pot or so, otherwise they’ll take over.

I use them generally as I would use potatoes. I scrub them, cut the ugly parts off, but leave most of the skin on. then roll them in olive oil, some rosemary, and salt and pepper and roast them at 190 for 20-30 minutes.

I’m so glad I got introduced !

J