Reconnecting lost kumara knowledge
It’s a project about planting - so it was fitting it was blessed by the Lord of the Forest - Ta¯ne Mahuta.
It was on a visit to the ancient kauri when Kai Rotorua community gardener Te Rangikaheke Kiripatea knew their project to establish a kumara bank, and reconnect with lost knowledge about the crop, would succeed.
Kiripatea was one of a group of community gardeners who had been on a hikoi north to visit kumara growers to fill in some gaps in their knowledge around growing and storing the taonga.
It was on this trip they stopped to visit Ta¯ne Mahuta in the Waipoua Forest, the largest known kauri and believed to be as much as 2500 years old.
‘‘It rained, poured down on us. Then when we got out of there we just hopped into our vehicles and it stopped, a sign our hikoi was blessed,’’ he said.
‘‘Our signal, absolutely brilliant. Our trip to Ta¯ne Mahuta affirmed everything we were on that trip for.’’
Kiripatea was speaking at a special planting ceremony at Ohinemutu, something he believes will be the start of reviving kumara growing in Rotorua.
‘‘We wanted to get a sense of how they grew them up there,’’ he said.
‘‘If we’re going to grow kumara for a social enterprise model we need to step it up.’’
He said they studied techniques for planting and most importantly, storage.
‘‘We’ve never been successful at that. It’s always been hit and miss.’’
Kiripatea said one organic grower they visited used brick sheds held together with mud instead of concrete, ‘‘probably closer to the Maori way of doing things back in the day’’.
He said they have ambitious plans for Kai Rotorua too.
‘‘We are going to create in Rotorua a facility made up of ship containers, one of them will be a kumara bank.’’
He said they also planned to open a kumara museum outlining its history, admin facilities for the group and a coffee shop.
‘‘The kumara never speaks of its sweetness, so our kumara hub will speak for the kumara,’’ he said.
Kai Rotorua, formerly the Rotorua Local Food Network, is holding its inaugural meeting on Thursday September 21 at the Rotorua Lakes Council.
Anyone interested in becoming a member is invited to attend with a gold coin.