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.

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