Following on from yesterday’s post about the need to focus more on producing our staple foods, I just came across a couple of posts on Jerry Coleby-Williams’ blog about growing yams as a potato substitute.
You are probably aware of Jerry from his writing in Gardening Australia and The Organic Gardener magazines, or as the presenter for the national gardening program Gardening Australia for over twelve years. Hanneke and I were lucky enough to be guides at his home “Bellis” in a Brisbane bayside suburb when he opened it to the public on Sustainable House Day a few years ago – we weren’t really “guides” (Jerry did that), our role was to greet people when they arrived and to keep them entertained until Jerry had completed the previous tour of the back garden. It is amazing what we could find to say about even his front garden. Jerry is an inspiring person and his backyard garden is one of the most prolific I have ever seen.
Jerry recommends yams because they are “adaptable, space and energy saving, productive and easy to store [and t]hey taste and cook like potato, but the starch is far more sustaining”.
He grows Winged Yam, Dioscorea alata, and Aerial Potato, D. bulbifera, and in his latest post on the subject reports a “low yield” this year for his Winged Yams of only17.2kg per square metre, instead of the 20 – 30 kg/sq. m. that he normally gets. This compares to his average potato harvest of 3.5 kg/sq. m.
In another post he provides a lot more detail on the characteristics of each species, their cultivation, pests, storage, etc.
If you are thinking of growing the Aerial Potato, please take into account Jerry’s warnings on keeping them under control, and the comment on one of his postings from an ecologist on the Sunshine Coast about “escapes”
We are now on the lookout for both of these yams. If you know of anyone in Southeast Queensland who has these available please let us know.