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16 Interesting Facts About Kumera (Sweet Potato)

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Introduction

The kumera, also known as the sweet potato, is a delicious and nutritious root vegetable that is popularly consumed all over the world. Though it may look like an ordinary potato, the vibrant orange kumera is far more than just a starchy side dish.

Kumera has an incredibly rich and fascinating history, nutritional profile, and cultural significance across many societies over time. This versatile veggie has been cultivated for over 5,000 years and continues to be an important crop globally.

Below are 16 interesting facts about the fantastic kumera that showcase why it remains such a beloved and intriguing food.

Interesting Facts About Kumera

  1. Kumera is not a potato. Kumera is part of the morning glory family while potatoes belong to the nightshade family. This is why kumera vines have heart-shaped leaves and small flowers.
  2. They come in over 4,000 varieties. Kumera have a wide range of skin and flesh colors like orange, yellow, purple, red, and even white. Their textures also differ from dry and starchy to smooth and creamy.
  3. Kumera may have originated in Central or South America. Botanists believe kumera were first domesticated in pre-Columbian times by indigenous peoples living in these areas.
  4. Ancient Polynesians carried kumera on epic voyages. Through epic open-sea travels, kumera eventually spread across the Pacific and became a staple crop in Hawaii, New Zealand, and other islands.
  5. They are loaded with nutrients. One medium baked kumera has over 100% of your daily vitamin A and vitamin C needs. They also provide vitamin B6, potassium, copper, pantothenic acid, and more.
  6. Kumera tops potatoes nutritionally. Ounce for ounce, baked kumera has fewer calories and carbs than potatoes. They also offer more fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  7. You can grow them as ornamental vines. Due to its lush, fast-growing vines and delicate flowers, kumera plants make beautiful landscaping additions. They look gorgeous spilling from containers too.
  8. They can be cured to last for months. Through a special storage process called curing, kumera can keep for several months versus just a few weeks without curing. This allowed ancient peoples to save and transport it.
  9. Kumera leaves are edible too. In some Asian and Pacific Islander cultures, young kumera leaves are cooked and eaten as nutritious greens. They have an earthy, spinach-like taste.
  10. Different varieties suit varying cuisines. Drier, flakier kumera work well roasted or fried while smoother, creamier kinds are best mashed, pureed into soup, or used in desserts.
  11. They play key cultural roles. In New Zealand and the Pacific Islands especially, kumera hold deep symbolic importance around nurturing family and community.
  12. Kumera can be fermented into alcohol. In Japan, an alcoholic beverage called imo-jochu is made by fermenting kumera instead of the usual rice or barley.
  13. Early European explorers missed their amazing potential. When first encountered by Europeans, kumera were viewed more as a botanical curiosity and livestock feed than a valuable food for people.
  14. Kumera fueled James Cook’s treks. According to records, sweet potatoes served as an important vitamin-rich food that helped stave off sailor’s scurvy during Captain Cook’s epoch South Pacific journeys.
  15. They helped save millions from famine. When famine struck Europe in the late 1700s, kumera were shipped from America and became lifesaving substitutes for standard potatoes in Ireland and Russia.
  16. NASA views kumera as an ideal space crop. Due to their ability to thrive in limited spaces and soils plus nutritional quality, NASA scientists are studying kumera as a viable vegetable for future long-term space missions.

Conclusion

Beyond being a versatile and tasty food, the vibrant orange kumera has quite a storied past and an intriguing present and future.

From its early beginnings in pre-Columbian America to sailing across the high seas with ancient Polynesian explorers to saving malnourished populations from famine, the humble yet mighty kumera root certainly deserves more recognition.

With over 4,000 varieties offering their unique perks, there are so many types of kumera to try. Roast them, puree them, ferment them – the possibilities are endless for this vitamin-packed powerhouse veggie. Even NASA agrees, recognizing the uncanny resilience and nutritional merits of the sweet potato.


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