Monday, January 5, 2015

The Edible Air Potato: Crash Gardening S2, Episode 6

I found an edible air potato patch near my place. In today's episode, we talk about identifying Dioscorea alata as opposed to its sometimes poisonous cousin Dioscorea bulbifera.

The winged yam is a tasty root. If I were to choose a favorite survival staple, it would have to be any of the true yams.

I've found them to be excellent as homefries and hash browns. Cassava is faster and a bit easier to grow under adverse conditions, but the yams are a close second. And they taste better.

Malanga tastes good but needs more water to be happy. Sweet potatoes are prolific but too sweet to substitute for white potatoes. Yams just hit the sweet spot. Too bad the invasive nature of D. bulbifera has poisoned the well!

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At January 5, 2015 at 12:18 PM , Blogger Nickolas Sexson said...

I've been scouring the area around my house since fall looking for some bulbils to plant and all I found was one partially formed wimpy bulbil. I could find all the D. Bulbifera bulbils you could ever want, but no D. Alata. Any suggestions on where I might be able to procure some?
On the topic of yams, I recently got a portion of what was called 'yellow name" I suspect it may be a D. Cayenensis or maybe just a yellow cultivar of D. Rotundata. Do you know of any solid yam information that might help me determine what I have? Seems like a lot of the information I have found so far has been vague or questionable. I'm glad to see that you share my enthusiasm for true yams.

Thanks for the great post and take care.


At January 5, 2015 at 12:21 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Thank you.

The guy who knows the most about yams in Florida is John Starnes. Look up "John Starne's Urban Farm" to find his site, then search for "yams." He also has some good YouTube videos that should help.

The problem with finding D. alata: most nurseries won't sell it because it's listed as invasive and they may or may not get in trouble by offering it. I think it's a silly designation for a productive and edible food plant, but that's the way it is. Try asking the folks at the Edible Plant Project in Gainesville. Also try ebay.

At January 5, 2015 at 10:37 PM , Anonymous Andi said...

Have you seen any of the red beetles released by UF yet? In August and September the farm was COVERED in them, seriously they were everywhere and there were holes in every single airpotato vine leaf I could see. HOWEVER. I've never been able to distinguish between D alata and D bulbifera in the wild. My fear is that the red beetles will run out of D bulbifera and start eating all of the dioscoreas.

At January 5, 2015 at 11:12 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

D. bulbifera rarely has any root... D. alata has an awesome root. That helps.

Also, I've noticed that the bulbifera is getting creamed by those beetles but the alata thus far are untouched. I think it was a stupid move on UF's part to release those red bastards since there are really good edible varieties of D. bulbifera... but it's too late now.


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