How To Harvest, Cure + Store Kumara

kumara harvested, ready for curing

Kumara loves the warmth. From growing the shoots to planting to storage – keep it as warm as you can for best success. Those of you on light, free draining soil are on a win – your soil holds warmer, longer giving you more lee way when it comes to harvest. Not so for those of us on clay, especially when combined with rapidly cooling soil temperatures because when left in heavy cold soils, kumara develop blemishes in storage that rot. If this is your lot, be on guard and ready to harvest. At the very latest be sure to get your crop up before frosts, as frost will turn them mushy.

Three things come together to let you know kumara harvest is nigh.

  • Time. Kumara are ready 120 – 150 days after planting.
  • Tuber size. Scrounge around in the soil and feel them.
  • Climate. Before the first frost, before soils dive below 13°C and ensuring you have dry, sunny weather for harvest.

Harvest

Choose a lovely sunny day, preferably having had a few dry days prior.

kumara pre harvest
Kumara bed, pre harvest

Cut off all the foliage with hedge clippers and use that beautiful pile of biomass to make an awesome compost, or to mulch the bed with after you’ve gotten the crop up. Kumara greens are edible, by the way – they taste like spinach. Your cow or goat will love them too.

Slide your fork or better yet forksta in to gently loosen the soil, then get in with your hands and scrape the dirt away with to reveal the nest of tubers.

kumara

Kumara snuggle their fragile ends into the hard stuff making them a bhuddist act to get out if you are on heavy soils. Follow their twists and turns carefully to extract them whole if you can. Be ever so careful here, they break easily, and broken ones have no storage capabilities.

the kumara is up and ready to cure

Once they are up out of the ground, transfer them gently to the wheelbarrow and bring them to wherever the curing will take place.

Cure

Curing is important – it hardens the skins, sealing in moisture and keeping out damaging bacteria and fungi. It also brings out the sugars which is why you don’t get too excited about eating a freshly harvested kumara – they’re more starchy at this stage than sweet.

kumara curing on a wire rack

Lay them in a single layer, on wire racks or in baskets. Somewhere warm, with good airflow. I set my homemade, wire racks up on top saw horses, on our deck. Kumara cure well here under cover, bathing in the reflected heat from the concrete below them. Leave them here for about 5 days.

Its likely you’ll have plenty of thin, little tubers. These go soft pretty quickly, so either gobble them up in a stirfry (sod all flavour, but just for the fun of it!) or give them to stock – pigs are ever grateful.

Store

Brush off the worst of the dirt (whatever you do, dont wash them!) and proudly lay them in a basket or box, with newspaper between each layer. Put the broken ones on top, to ensure you use them first.

Choose somewhere out of direct light and steadily warm – ideally above 12°C. Kumara are similar to pumpkin and squash this way, so store them together. Perhaps in a cupboard in a warm room, or displayed in the hallway. When I lived up the gorge, I stored them beneath my bed, now a days, I keep them in the bottom of our pantry.

As with all stores, check through every now and then for rots. Remove the damaged one from the store to stop the rot spreading, cut out the bad bit and cook it up for tea.

Comments

  1. Sue @ Murch says

    Many thanks, Kath, for all your advice about growing and harvesting kumara, both online and in your e-book. Your tips on how to lift them without (much) mishap and cure in the greenhouse are invaluable. If I could attach a photo I would show you the sort of yield we have had here in Murchison – who says you can’t grow kumara in the SI? – the largest tubers are more than a foot long. The variety is a Koanga Institute heirloom one, Tuputini, that used to be grown by SI Maori in kete bags that they could carry around and put in warm places — has a more bushy habit with the tubers (mostly) neatly grouped vertically under the plant. I will grow my own tupu from these, following your instructions!

    • Thanks so much Sue! It’s really helpful for others to know that its possible down south. I appreciate you taking the time to write.
      nga mihi nui Kath