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No sweeter potato than Bundy Bonita

UNDERRATED: Linda Zunker with a box of Windhum Farms Bonita potatoes.
UNDERRATED: Linda Zunker with a box of Windhum Farms Bonita potatoes. Eliza Goetze

"BONITA is Spanish for 'pretty',” says Linda Zunker.

She is holding a sweet potato a little different to what most of us know.

The most obvious difference is its creamy white flesh - and for the Zunkers, there is nothing sweeter than Bonita.

The farming family grow a number of varieties in the red soils at the base of the Hummock in Bundaberg, including the vivid Red and striking purple-and-white Hawaiian.

And though few Australians know anything but the classic orange Gold, Mrs Zunker wants to change that.

The Bonita, an American variety, has a "uniquely sweet and flaky texture”.

It tastes similar to a regular potato - to which it bears no genetic relation - but retains the "superfood” status of a sweet potato with nutrients including vitamin B6, potassium and iron, making it useful for fussy children, Mrs Zunker said.

"A lot of farmers gave Bonita go when we were first introduced to it,” she said.

"They're beautiful, I love them; given the choice, I'll eat Bonitas every time.”

Most farmers in the area initially "grew little bits and pieces...but marketers didn't really know what to do with them,” she said.

"Most of them said they looked like a pale Gold and no one wanted them.

"It's not until you can get people tasting it that they realise the great flavour it's got.”

FARMERS' PICK: Linda Zunker digs up Bonita potatoes grown on Bundaberg's Windhum Farm.
FARMERS' PICK: Linda Zunker digs up Bonita potatoes grown on Bundaberg's Windhum Farm. Eliza Goetze

It's a good time to be in sweet potatoes according to the Zunkers.

Eighty per cent of the country's sweet potatoes are grown in Bundaberg and the industry is growing, Mrs Zunker said, with a marketing campaign funded by an industry levy launching earlier this year to include advertising and supermarket samples.

The challenge for the underdog Bonita is getting it into the major supermarkets.

"We don't sell direct to the chain stores - but they dictate what we eat, and they choose the Gold variety,” she said.

"It's sad because there are so many things like Bonita people would enjoy eating.”

While short on box office sales in Australia, Bonita - a popular variety in America - has critical acclaim.

GIVE IT A TRY: Linda Zunker with a Bonita potato grown on Bundaberg's Windhum Farm.
GIVE IT A TRY: Linda Zunker with a Bonita potato grown on Bundaberg's Windhum Farm. Eliza Goetze

Curtis Stone has sourced Bonita potatoes from Windhum Farms for his restaurants on Princess Cruises.

"It was just lucky that the guy who acquires all his produce is the father to my agent in Perth,” Mrs Zunker explained.

They were going to use Golds as a substitute, she said, when the agent said, "Hang on, I know someone”.

Windhum Farms puts a few boxes of Bonitas in their pallets headed to markets in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

"It's to get them out there and get people asking for them in the shops.

"In the future it would be great to see not just one variety of sweet potato on people's plates - but a whole range of colours.”

To find out more visit facebook.com/bundaberggold.

Topics:  bonita potato rural weekly sweet potato windhum farms


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