Our exploration to grow healthy, vibrant kumera [sweet potato]

Our exploration to grow healthy, vibrant kumera [sweet potato]

Kumera [sweet potato] is usually a tasty, easy-care vegetable that grows readily in warm climates.

It’s great steamed, boiled, baked or even fried. We use the tuber sliced/diced/chunks in curries, baked meals, even stir-fries.

The challenge now is growing great tubers!

Over the years we’ve grown different types of kumera – with variable results.

Last year we even grew 4 varieties but got disappointing results.

The growing plants looked terrific, with plenty of leaves and vines. The harvest seemed OK. But when we came to eat the tubers, many were corky, the skins were rough and broken and these tubers tasted yuk.

So this year we are keen to get clean shoots to plant [called slips]. We want to grow tasty, edible, nutritious tubers which also store well.

Light-bulb moment – do some research on better methods!

With thanks to ‘Aunty Google’, we found a great post from the Koanga Institute which hopefully solves our problem.

Growing Kumara

Next: do an experiment

Use starting stock already growing on our kitchen bench.

kumera [sweet potato] growing slips on our kitchen bench
Kumera [sweet potato] tubers sitting in jars of water to grow slips for planting
CUT the slips off in the new growth and leave old growth on the tuber.

Any fungus/disease on or in the tuber stays there and is [hopefully] not transferred to the new slips. If any part of the tuber is taken with the slip then so may disease infection too.

Place cut ends into water to see if they form roots.

20161102_081549
Cut kumera slips in a jar of water – day 1

Wow – by  day 3 – yes, they do form roots! See the tiny white rootlets growing from the red-brown stems?

kumera [sweet potato] slips in a jar of water
Cut kumera slips – day 3
We’ll leave these roots develop more and soon we will plant the slips into ground which has not grown kumera for some years – hopefully free of disease.

So, hopefully this year we will grow lovely disease-free tubers.

 

PS  Here’s a close up of the tubers root growth in the jars of water.

Kumera tubers on jars of water to grow slips for planting

See the difference in root growth between the two?

I was intrigued that one tuber grew heaps of roots and heaps of strong, healthy-looking shoots. These are the shoots I cut off and used for slips.

The other tuber has grown no roots and its shoots are also small – both tubers started at the same time.

From this, I’ve realized it’s a good idea to set out a number of starter tubers and pick the best. If I set out just 1 tuber to grow slips, it might be like the good, healthy one – or not!

 

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