Staple Food Source in Māori
Kamokamo is a staple food source for us Māori, and in the 19th century, was spread by trade around New Zealand. It’s a type of squash that is closely related to marrows, courgettes, and gourds. Like a courgette or marrow, it has a mild taste, but to my mind, it’s far superior because it has a subtle nutty flavor that stands out from its blander relatives.
It’s also very versatile. Try it pan-fried as tempura, barbecued, boiled, roasted, added to stir fry, mashed, or made into fritters, chips, or even relish. The young fruits are best eaten like courgettes while the larger mature fruits are better cooked like marrow and are great roasted or boiled.
The male flowers and vine tips can also be eaten. Boiled and mashed kamokamo makes nutritious and safe baby food. It’s rich in potassium, zinc, and dietary fiber and has high levels of fructose and glucose. Mature fruit can also make a storage vessel and traditionally used to hold the pulp of ripe tutu berries.
Before planting Kamokamo, here are some facts to know about:
Kamokamo, like pumpkin, grows as a large creeping vine. The main vine can spread up to 2-3 metres from the growing centre, so select a growing site that is large enough for the vine not to interfere with other plants.
The site should be exposed to direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day
Good airflow is essential to prevent the fungal disease powdery mildew. Avoid growing kamokamo in the same site year after year or where other cucurbits have been previously cropped because the soil may retain powdery mildew spores.
For ground preparation, ready the seedbed by turning over the ground with a spade or garden fork; this will aerate and loosen the soil.
Cover the existing weeds with soil to prevent further growth. Turning over the soil in August before the spring frosts will sterilize the soil and reduce the incidence of weeds and soil-borne mounding.