I wish I’d met this Floridian grower of winged yams…
I was on ebay a couple of weeks ago and came across a fascinating original press photo for sale. In it, as you can see, a woman is showing off a massive clump of Dioscorea tubers growing in her garden, also known as winged yams.
Since I’m a fan of both yams and eccentric gardeners, I purchased it.
The photo was originally taken by photographer Steve Dozier to illustrate a story by Hazel Geissler in the St. Petersburg Times that ran on April 20, 1979. I was born later that same year.
The woman in the picture is Helen Parkey. The back of the photo gives some details, plus a piece of the article:
According to the text, Helen was growing and eating the roots for years before knowing what they were or if they were edible.
My kind of gal.
Unfortunately, I can’t find any more information on Helen or her family or her story. The writer of the article passed away some time ago. If anyone knows more about Helen Parkey, I’d love to hear about it. I’m thinking of calling the newspaper on the off chance they have more info or a complete copy of the original article… Ms. Parkey seems like my kind of gardener, though I’m sure she’s long since passed into the next life.
Maybe we’ll meet again up there.
I’m sure, unlike the state of Florida, God doesn’t classify Dioscorea alata as a hateful non-native invasive. I’ll just keep on walking down the streets of gold until I see a trellis covered with rambling vines, bedecked with dangling bulbils and sporting pointed heart-shaped leaves…