I get asked regularly about “edible air potatoes” since I’ve mentioned finding and eating them – so here is my edible air potato ID, in photos!
The edible air potato, or “winged yam,” does grow wild here and there in patches across Florida. Both the hanging “air potatoes” and the roots beneath the ground are edible.
The confusion over which ones are edible and which ones aren’t results from the fact that we have two main “air potatoes” growing wind in the state of Florida: one potential toxic and one that’s safe.
This is where Latin names really come in handy.
The edible type is called Dioscorea alata.
NOTE: You can find these guys on ebay – including the rare purple version – if you can’t find them in the wild!
The generally non-edible variety is Dioscorea bulbifera. (I say “generally non-edible” because there are in fact wonderfully productive and safe cultivars of D. bulbifera – you’ll just have a hard time finding them in the wild and consuming them safely without a laboratory)
There’s a different look to the leaves, but the dead giveaway is the bulbils that form in late summer and fall. D. alata bulbils look like this: