Jay wrote to share a story of edible air potatoes:
Greetings from the big island of Hawaii.
Around here there are these vines growing with very beautiful leaves and air potatoes growing on them. My landlady told me they are edible so I cooked a few and they were bitter, and I read that they were toxic. She omitted that part. Also, that the plants are invasive…..but the heart shaped leaves are so pretty, I like them out my window.
Recently, friends had this very beautiful big thing that they had picked up at the health food store with a three feet long curving green stem growing out the top. It was like a sculpture, like a Japanese person might put it in an alcove because of how special it looks. It was large and dark brown and hard with odd interesting angles. The skin was pretty with a bit of a sheen and a bit bumpy. It was getting harder and shrinking a bit so they gave it to me to plant. I soaked it in water for a bit since it was so hard and scored the bottom too. Well, a month or more later and it is vining up up up a tree and the leaves look like the other one with the light brown rounded bitter potatoes. That got me concerned that this one wasn’t different so I googled them and was SHOCKED to find that there are so many different types and some are edible and some not and that there are permie types that are very passionate about them and even collect all types.
I happened upon a video with you holding one that seems like the cool one that I am growing. I don’t know from where it originates and have seen that there are types that are called things like- Steve’s Hawaii or Jim’s Hawaii so perhaps these guys are here on big island and this sculptural potato is one of their………hybrids or something like that.
Here’s the video Jay mentions:
Just thought I’d write you since you are holding a similar one in the video and talk about it being edible and not containing some “birth control” toxin.
Yes – that work of art bulbil is a cultivated variety. The edible ones are beautiful and angular. Should be perfectly safe to eat. Great find. One day I hope to grow them again. We lost mine when we moved a few years ago.
Edible Air Potatoes
Online, I’ve seen some interesting other varieties of edible Dioscorea bulbifera, like this one:
That type is very different from my angular ones, but is another edible cultivar. Also, where is this strange island of half-clad men? Italy? Is that what all of Italy is like? And is there a comparable place filled with women?
Okay, back to air potatoes.
The non-edible Discorea bulbifera look like this:
Much rounder. Sometimes they’re more tan than that, almost white. Sometimes darker. But always round to oval shaped, unlike the lovely edible ones.
I have been frustrated with my plans to grow these as a crop. It seems every time I get one and grow it up, I only get a few fruits in the first year – which I then use for planting stock; then subsequently end up moving and not being able to take them with me. This happened when we left Florida for the Caribbean and then again when we left the Caribbean and came to Alabama.
If you have any of the edible types or know of a source, I’d love to have them again. As Jay says, they are “like a sculpture”.
(Incidentally, I’m still ticked at UF for releasing their stupid beetles to eat the D. bulbiferas. Come on, man!)
You make it sound like ALL round/oval D. bulbifera are evil. What about D. bulbifera ‘Hawaii’? I just bought one, and it’s round…
I’m sure it’s legit because it’s from Grower Jm and you’ve written about the cultivar before, but this particular post has me confused now.
I’ve never seen one in person – but you’re right. It’s the 99.9% of other rounds ones that are making Hawaii look bad.
I just looked at “Hawaii” again. It is rounder, but has a different look to it – prettier, for sure. Not sure how to capture that subtlety.
Phew! Thanks for clarifying. I’ll try to remember to send you photos when it produces because I already planted the one bulbil I bought.