Kumara!? What is it?

The sweet potato has many different names around the world, but in New Zealand, it is known by it's Maori name, Kumara. In the United States and other English speaking countries, the Kumara is known as "sweet potato", in France, "patate douce", in China "hong shu" (红薯) and in Vietnam, "khoai lang." It is easy to see why the kumara is so popular around the world; it is one of the most commonly grown crops and one of the healthiest vegetables to eat!

New Zealand and the Kumara

New Zealand kumara are available in red, gold and orange varieties.
New Zealand kumara are available in red, gold and orange varieties.
New Zealand kumara are available in red, gold and orange varieties.

New Zealand kumara are available in red, gold and orange varieties.

The kumara has a long history of cultivation in New Zealand. Introduced by early Maori settlers arriving from the Pacific Islands over 1,000 years ago, it was widely grown throughout New Zealand, especially in the semitropical regions of the North Island. The kumara we eat today has evolved from an American variety that grows on a creeping vine. It was imported in the early 1850s and was quickly adopted for its superior size and taste. Now Kumara is the 10th most popular vegetable in New Zealand. The majority of kumara is grown in Northland in the Northern Wairoa region where soil type and climatic conditions suit kumara perfectly.

New Zealand kumara are available in red, gold and orange varieties. They each have a different skin and flesh colour, texture and flavour. Red kumara with red skin, has a creamy white flesh with a firm texture and mellow flavour. The gold-skinned kumara has golden flesh with a soft texture and is sweeter than red kumara. Orange kumara has orange skin and flesh, a firm texture and has the sweetest taste.

Kumara remains a favourite food for generations of New Zealanders, across all age, gender and ethnic groups

The Kumara is:

·         High in dietary fibre

·         A good source of protein

·         A source of vitamins A and C

·         A source of iron and calcium

·         High in complex carbohydrates for slow burning energy

·         A great healthy substitute for other foods high in sugar and carbohydrates such as rice, pasta and corn

·         Pleasantly sweet from naturally occurring sugars

·         Low in calories

One of the latest products to hit the market is Kumara chips and leading the pack is Kenny's Kumara chips. These chips are produced using a shallow frying technique rather than high temperature deep frying to minimize absorption of oil. The chips also undergo a vigorous de-oiling process before they are fully dried. This is why Kenny's Kumara chips taste less greasy than potato chips and their fat content is significantly lower. Shallow, low temperature frying also allows for the retention of the Kumara’s natural nutritional value and flavour which would mostly be destroyed by traditional deep-fat frying.

Kumara is a superfood. One of the 14 foods that help you live to 100!James Oliver

Also, most of the Kumara chips offered by Kenny’s do not contain any traces of eggs, soy, peanut or treenuts. Just to note, however, the Sour Cream and Chives flavour does contain some dairy, as real sour cream is used to make the flavouring.

The glycemic index (GI) helps measure a food's impact on one's blood sugar levels. Low-GI diets have been associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, stroke, depression, chronic kidney disease, formation of gall stones, and even certain types of cancers.

Kumara is known to have one of the lowest glycemic index rating among all root vegetables, and a significantly lower ranking than white potatoes. Kumara is digested slowly, allowing a gradual rise in blood sugar and is therefore less likely to cause weight gain. Incorporating Kumara chips into one's diet would certainly be a beneficial decision to make. Kenny's Kumara chips currently come in three delicious flavours, Natural and Salt & Pepper and Sour Cream and Chives.

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