New Zealand's unique white-skinned and white-fleshed early Maori kumara varietiues are to be studied for their potential as a gourmet food.
Demand for foods that are produced using culturally and environmentally sensitive techniques has prompted research on nine lines of the native sweet potatoes.
The Pu Hao Rangi Trust has joined the National Maori Vegetable Growers' Collective in a joint venture to explore the economic potential of New Zealand's early kumara in a two-year research project.
Crop andFood Research agronomists are working to find the best growing conditions for the cultivars with yields and quality during storage the key factors examined in the trials.
"Unlike common kumara grown today, little is known about these early cultivars," Crop and Food Research Maori research leader Meto Leach said. "The research is needed to see how they will survive transplanting and to identify their susceptibility to climate and disease."
The aim is to identify an early kumara line suitable for the market and to establish a successful production system. The research should be complete by July, 2007.