Dioscorea alata – the “edible air potato” or “winged yam” – is one of my favorite wild edible plants.
Check out this root I found growing at the base of a tree:
That’s 27lbs of root there.
(And yes, I was out digging in the rain.)
There’s a patch of rough woods by a gas station near my place that is loaded with Dioscorea alata plants, just waiting to be eaten. (For a guide on identifying the edible ones, click here.)
According to my calculations, this one tuber contains 14,220 calories. That’s enough food for 7 days.
Even better, the winged yam isn’t a bland root like canna or a sweetish root like cassava.
The winged yam tastes like a good white potato. You could eat it on a daily basis for a while without going nuts.
If you were to grow edible air potatoes on purpose, you’d start with one of the hanging aerial bulbils or a piece of root and plant it at this time of year an inch or two deep near a tree or a trellis the vines can climb.
The first year the root or bulbil grows a bit bigger, maybe into a few pound tuber. The second year it goes insane, making a gigantic root that looks like the one I found.
Quite a specimen, isn’t it?
It’s amazing what you can find growing in Florida’s woods. I love this great state.