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From Gulf News - Dec 11th

In the growing fields
By Deb Lyttle

Kumara, Maori potatoes, pumpkin and
sugar cane were celebrated recently as
elders from Piritahi Marae and the wider
community gathered at the growing fields
above Onetangi to bless the crops.

As the ongoing force behind the plantings,
Eugene Behan-Kitto spoke to the
group while leaning on a hoe. “If we do
this through our own labour and sweat;
the tastier and healthier it will be.”


These crops are being grown in high
anticipation of the feeding of thousands
of visitors from across New Zealand,
expected to attend when the carving and
woven panels for the main house of the
marae are unveiled in the next year or so.
This will be the first time the histories of
Waiheke will be revealed in a fully dressed
house of Maori tradition.

The planting of 4000 red kumara, 1000
golden, 100 sugar cane plants, three types
of Maori potato and 300 pumpkin are a
legacy of the late Koro Kato who first
inspired and taught Eugene about the
growing of kumara. He was learning at
Koro Kato’s side for 18 years.

He jokes about how hard it was physically
to keep up with Kato, then aged 72.
Kato had agreed to teach on one condition:
“When I call, you will come. I will
give you two weeks notice.” Some of his
last words were, “Keep ahead of yourself
with the kumara and don’t be late.”

The guardian of the kumara in Maori
culture is ‘Rongomatane’, the God of
Peace. From the seed bed this year, more
than 6000 have been planted around
Waiheke, along with 2000 going back
couraging our babies to get on board,”
is how he described it.

As the group sang the hymn ‘How great
thou art’, local farmer Malcolm Philcox
cast an eye over the field with its view
of the greens hills beyond Onetangi and
said as an aside, “It’s an ideal spot. A
little breezy – no damp conditions so
there will be no leaf blight. They look
extremely healthy.”

The Waiheke elders then shared in
a Christmas lunch before going home
with roses in one hand, kamokamo
and baby kumara plants in the other to
plant in their backyard gardens around
the island.

Eugene gave specific directions for
their care. They were to be planted deep,
up to their leaves with the root bent back
up towards the surface. They should be
planted about one foot apart, four in a
square foot. Once they began running,
mound them up like potatoes. One plant
should provide one kilo of kumara. They
will be ready around April or May when
the leaves start looking tired.•
would be useful to have a place where all the current initiatives/projects are listed, with contact details times etc (like community gardens, addresses, contact details, regualr working bee times..) - maybe here?
The lovely picture looks like pumpkin leaves to me - its title is "an abundance of kale" ??
The picture title came with the pic - from Gulf news, and you're right, it should read something like "Eugene in the pumpkins"

Laura said:
The lovely picture looks like pumpkin leaves to me - its title is "an abundance of kale" ??

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