Red kumara, (Owairaka) is the most widely recognised kumara in New Zealand with a distinctive red skin, a creamy white firm textured flesh which cooks with a delightfully mellow taste. Kaipara Kumara grow small-size red kumara called 'Sweeties' which can be cooked whole or diced and popped into a salad raw.
Gold kumara (Toka Toka) has a golden skin and flesh and a sweeter taste than red kumara.
Orange kumara (Beauregard) has a rich orange flesh and is the sweetest of the 3 varieties.
The kumara has a long history of cultivation in New Zealand. Brought here by the early Maori settlers over one thousand years ago from Pacific Islands, they were widely grown especially in the semi-tropical regions of the North Island.
The Maori managed kumara growing with great horticultural skill, making use of the ideal growing climate and controlling kumara caterpillar with the use of tamed black-backed seagulls. Kumara caterpillar could devastate a crop almost overnight, hatching in their thousands. Pre-European Maori grew several different varieties of 'bush' kumara, but compared to the varieties we eat today they were very small in size, being no bigger than a finger.
The kumara we eat today has evolved from a larger American variety. It was imported in the early 1850's, and quickly adopted for its superior size and taste.