Corn and Kumara Harvest

Somehow, despite our neglect, our corn crop came to fruition. The damage from shield bugs was not too bad in the end, but we did lose some to the birds. We are sure the crop would have been much bigger if we had side dressed with manure, or applied a foliar feed. Still, we are pleased enough with our first corn harvest. The colours of the kernels are beautiful. Some of them look as if they are lit from within! I am planning to string up the corn to dry. I think it will look wonderful hanging in the kitchen.

Indian flint corn

I am not sure if we’ll grow this variety of corn (“Indian Flint Corn”) again. In the end, we didn’t plant quite enough to have a viable population for seed saving, so our decision will depend partly on availability. Also, we have friends at Kerikeri and Takahue who are growing heirloom corn, and it might make better sense to grow the same variety they do — so that we could collectively maintain a bigger population for saving seed.

We have also started to harvest the first of the kumara. Kumara is a New Zealand sweet potato. We enjoy them baked, roasted, boiled, in soup, or even as the main ingredient in a variation on the traditional potato salad. We made a saute of peppers, zucchini, onion and garlic, added balsamic vinegar, salt, and olive oil, and mixed it together with cubes of boiled kumara. Very tasty!


When we lived over at Kaikohe, my Dad used to tell me to bend each kumara shoot into a U shape before planting it, so that the roots would be facing up towards the surface of the soil. This way, the tubers would grow close to the surface rather than growing impossibly deep in the soft volcanic soil. I decided not to bother with the U shape here on the Farmlet, considering that our soil is heavy clay. Now that harvest time has come, I’m amazed at how deep the kumara have managed to grow, even in our heavy soil. Digging them is proving to be a bit of a mission! Lesson learned: Next spring I’ll bend the kumara shoots as I plant them.

5 Responses to “Corn and Kumara Harvest”

  1. N. & J. says:

    The corn have beautiful colors if nothing else.

  2. Eileen says:

    I should not read and look at Farmlet so late at night.
    I don’t have much of an appetitie anymore for anything, but whenever I read Farmlet, I just want to EAT!
    Beatiful corn and kumara.
    Its odd – you are in harvest down under, and up in North America, I’m just now cleaning out my seed starting flats and such to start my spring seedlings.
    Nonetheless, the pictures of your produce are so gorgeous, I could chomp on that dry ear of purple corn and be happy!

  3. Maryann says:

    I discovered Cryptogon, and Farmlet a few months ago.

    I’m envious of your Kumara. We grew (until a storage failure wiped out our gene stock) Wayne Miller’s ‘old-fashioned red’ sweet potatoes that are a dead ringer for Kumara, including the yellow flesh. [See William Woys Weaver’s Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, p.334-5] I’ve cycle-toured (solo) in New Zealand, so I’m familiar with Kumara. I bought a packet of Silver Beet seeds there on my last trip in 1993, and every single seed germinated until I emptied the packet ten years later! [I now grow Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard.] Until moving to the farm I used to grow tomatoes, silver beet, pole beans and butternut squash in my suburban back yard.

    We moved to our Pennsylvania farm, from the big city, 10 years ago, following my desire, ever since 1st grade, to grow my own food. How lucky we are to have worked out the kinks and improved our soil by this time.

    Our experience growing sweet potatoes: We also have a heavy clay soil. We built raised beds and have added much compost, cover-cropped, etc……We noticed that it’s best to not loosen the soil deeply for the sweet potatoes, or most of them will be spindly. The large, fat tubers grow in the tightly-packed soil. Our experience digging them (by hand) parallels yours. It’s worth it . The spindly tubers don’t keep well, and shrivel up. I also recommend keeping some shoots growing year-round in a hanging planter, to avoid loss.

    Thanks to you we are now stocking up on the foodstuffs we do not grow: grains. We also just bought a wood cook stove, oil lamps, extra tools and handles, etc. We’re spending our savings like water on supplies to sustain us when the dollar can’t. This is after years of frugally saving money for a ‘rainy day’. Heh. April showers………

    I had looked into emigrating to NZ over 20 years ago, after my first cycle tour there. I didn’t have enough points. Now we’re too old.
    Speaking of showers……

    Kevin: Re your item about the Beijing Olympic stadium efforts to prevent rain. Could so-called chemtrails have any connection? We notice many parallel chemtrails being created E-W in our area. Either we’re in a major passenger jet flyway, or, being between several Army installations, it’s not a coincidence…. but we notice that rain cells very often dissipate or divert north and south of us. In short, compared to official data for our general area, we get way less rain. At least our clay soil is an advantage in this context.

    Thanks for sharing your lives and expertise with us.

    What are your thoughts on Valerie Morse’s Against Freedom, The War on Terrorism in Everyday New Zealand Life? I was very disappointed to read this. Her Counterpunch article summarizes.

  4. Rebecca says:

    That’s a neat tip about keeping the kumara shoots in a hanging planter. Thanks! I’m hoping to give it a go.
    Good luck with all your gardening.

    Too bad you live so far away! You’d be welcome to share a bit of our corn any day. . . but I’d insist on cooking it first so you wouldn’t break your teeth.


  5. Peg says:

    years ago, we found that horrible sticky stuff on the hands, and so hard to remove, was totally cleaned by getting a handful of ripe water melon and `scrunching` it. In those days we had big crops of kumara and water melon cheek and jowel in the alluvial riverbank soil. This was in Kaitaia, ath the top of the nort Island of NZ cheers Peg