Dioscorea batatas - Chinese Yam

Chinese yam is a cultivated root crop from China. It makes long edible tap roots and small edible aerial bulbils.

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at Montreal Botanic Garden

they have an amazing perennial vegetable collection

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek - www.perennialsolutions.org

I was looking up names for

I was looking up names for Disocorea spp. in other languages to help with sourcing tubers from Asian markets. The wikipedia entry lists them as follows.  "In Chinese it is known as huái shān (), shān yào (山药) (lit. "mountain medicine."), or huái shān yào (山药). In Japanese, it is known as nagaimo (lit. 'long yam'; kanji: 長芋; hiragana: ながいも). Furthermore, nagaimo is classified intoichōimo (lit. 'ginkgo-leaf yam'; kanji: 銀杏芋; hiragana: いちょういも), or yamatoimo (lit. Yamato yam; kanji: 大和芋; hiragana: やまといも), depending on root shapes. In Korea it is called ma (hangul: 마), "sanwu(山芋, 산우)", seoyeo(薯蕷, 서여), or sanyak(山藥, 산약). In Vietnam, the yam is called củ mài or khoai mài. When this yam is processed to become a medicine, the yam is called hoài sơnor tỳ giải.In Chinese it is known as huái shān (), shān yào (山药) (lit. "mountain medicine."), or huái shān yào (山药). In Japanese, it is known as nagaimo (lit. 'long yam'; kanji: 長芋; hiragana: ながいも). Furthermore, nagaimo is classified intoichōimo (lit. 'ginkgo-leaf yam'; kanji: 銀杏芋; hiragana: いちょういも), or yamatoimo (lit. Yamato yam; kanji: 大和芋; hiragana: やまといも), depending on root shapes. In Korea it is called ma (hangul: 마), "sanwu(山芋, 산우)", seoyeo(薯蕷, 서여), or sanyak(山藥, 산약). In Vietnam, the yam is called củ mài or khoai mài. When this yam is processed to become a medicine, the yam is called hoài sơnor tỳ giải."

montreal. zone 5a

new latin name

Now D. polystachya.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek - www.perennialsolutions.org

variety with larger bulbils

We got this clone from Oikos Tree Crops and were shocked by how large the bulbils are!

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek - www.perennialsolutions.org

aerial tubers

Young vine (2 years) showing yields of bulbils. Older vines make much more, though this year our largest vine is serving as a trellis for hardy passionfruit. We have a new polyculture planting which we think will optimize production and harvesting of this interesting and tasty crop.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek - www.perennialsolutions.org

store-bought root

Here's what the roots look like when grown in deep rich soils in raised beds. Often use removable planks on sides of beds for easy harvest of delicate tubers. From an Asian market in New Haven Connecticut.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek - www.perennialsolutions.org

Chinese yam - perennial "yam berry"

For years I thought of this as a very minor food crop for perenial polycultures. The roots are a major staple in Japan but are essentially slow annuals: deep delicate taproots that take several years to mature and kill the plant upon harvesting. These taproots are very delicious - if you have too many plants they can be dug (with care) and they are quite the gourmet root crop, growing quite large as well.

The vines are also a great ornamental, with wonderful cinnamon-scented flowers.

The plants produce small aerial tubers or bulbils, which I always assumed were a novelty food or even a nuisance. Eaten raw, they are kind of starchy and mucilaginous. I figured they were just a tease to remind us that we can't grow "real" air potatoes (D. bulbifera). But last year (2008) our vine started producing huge amounts of bulbils and I boiled some up. To my great surprise they tasted very much like new red potatoes, slightly waxy but excellent with butter and salt while still warm.

I think our four year old vine might have made 2 gallons or more of these pea- to chick pea-sized bulbils last year.

Since then I have been imagining production trellis systems. Vines trellised on poles or even pollarded or heavily pruned nitrogen fixing trees or shrubs with wires stretched between. Laying out a tarp underneath would allow for most efficient harvest, as the tubers drop over a long period of perhaps 6 weeks. With some refinement of best production methods this may prove to be a storable tasty perennial no-dig starch crop for cold temperate climates - something in very short supply here. Anyone who wants some ideas on trellis construction etc. pop me an email at toensmeier@gmail.com.

Photo: taproot plus aerial tubers with Felco pruners for scale. Taproot would be much larger in loose, fertile soil (this was compacted construction fill). Estimated tuber yield from one vine 2 gallons in 2009.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek - www.perennialsolutions.org

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