Did you know that Kumara leaves (as they are known in NZ) are edible and they are actually very good for us?!
Often we only focus on the root and the rest is thrown away, even if it does go back into the compost. But ALL of the kumara plant is edible, although the most nutritious are the leaves.
Treat kumara leaves as you would spinach in your meals!
- Raw: just like any dark leafy green you can add them to your salads
- Sauteed: roughly chop them up and sauté them with some butter and garlic
- Boiled: boiling sweet potato vine leaves will help remove their bitterness.
- Juiced: add them into your daily juice for a vitamin kick.
Kumara leaf vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamins: A, C, K, B1, B2, B3, B9
- Vitamin K (which kumara vines are high in) helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures
- Minerals: calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium
- Also contains zinc, manganese, copper
By the way, just ONE sweet potato gives you 400% of the vitamin A you need each day!
Kumara are also:
- High in antioxidants, which can help prevent or delay damage to cells in the body
- Kumara leaves are full of fibre which helps regulate your bowel movements and gastrointestinal tract
- Consumption of the leaves can also help prevent some chronic diseases like inflammation, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and some cancers
Medicinally: Kumara leaves and vine are a common Rongoa used for wharetangata (wombs), toning uterus in preparation for baby and prostate. It was also used to prevent jaundice in pepi (baby).
They were traditionally said to boost metabolism, support digestive processes, anaemia, and help with a low mood.
A cooked kumara is used to draw and heal any infected wounds also.
- For the most nutrients, choose healthy sweet potatoes with deep green leaves and dark flesh
- The whole tips of the sweet potato are edible, including the leaves, stems, and leaf stalks. The leaves, however, are the most nutritious
- Use sweet potato leaves immediately for the best use and most nutrients. Otherwise, store the leaves properly (refrigeration or cool, dark place with stems in water)
- Fat is important for the absorption of vitamin A, so cook the leaves with some fat (e.g. small amounts of oil or butter) to help the body absorb vitamin A. The amount of fat required can vary (2.4 to 5 g/meal) for cooked vegetables. If you consume the leaves raw as a salad, eat them with a dressing that has some fat (e.g. oil)
- Don’t cook the leaves for too long or some nutrients may be lost.