In Production Today: Subtropical Winter

Winged Yam, Dioscorea alata
Winged Yam, Dioscorea alata

In June I was on a gardeners’ tour of Vietnam, great fun, but I returned to a lot of weeding! This winter has been mild and damp with just two cold snaps so far. Ideal conditions for weeds and watercress are not ideal conditions for snow peas, which prefer it cooler. Drizzle and humidity haven’t been ideal for tomatoes either, they prefer drier conditions, but pickings have been acceptable. The best news is some of my favourite crops – yams and cocoyams – are in season!

I love yams, especially when they’re served diced and boiled, or fried as wedges. For the past eleven years, these trouble-free staples have thrived in my garden. This afternoon I lifted 50 kg of tubers from three yam plants. These three occupied 3 square metres of soil. My best potato crop here in the sub-coastal subtopics is 35 kilos of ‘Kipfler’ potatoes from 10 square metres – less than a quarter of the productivity. Then you have to prevent light from turning spuds green and toxic, and you have to pay for electricity to stop them growing during storage, plus you forfeit fridge space. After I’ve brushed the soil off my yams, I store them under the house. Despite the yams being a somewhat light crop, I’m very contented with this first harvest of 2015.

If you’re after yams, come along to my next Open Day (Mother’s Day Weekend, 2016), or pop along to your local community garden.

I’m now catching up, belatedly sowing crops for late winter and spring, and preserving surplus limes, lemons and chillies as jam.

Here’s my winter menu:

Edible roots and shoots

Aerial potato, Dioscorea bulbifera;
Arrowroot, Canna edulis;
Cassava, Manihot esculenta;
Cassava, Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’;
Cocoyam, Xanthosoma saggitifolia;
Jerusalem artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus ‘Dwarf Sunray’;
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Ace of Spades’ (small, tasty tubers);
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’;
Yam, winged, Dioscorea alata;

Edible leaves

* Basil, lemon, Ocimum x citriodora
* Basil, sacred, Ocimum tenuiflorum;
Cassava, Manihot esculenta;
Cassava, Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’;
Cha-plu, Piper sarmentosum;
Chickweed, Stellaria media;
* Chicory, Cichorium intybus;
Chicory, Cichorium intybus ‘Red Dandelion’;
Chinese celery, aka smallage, Apium graveolens;
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum;
* Coriander, Coriandrum sativum;
* Cranberry Hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella;
Curry bush, Helichrysum italicum;
Curry leaf, Murraya koenigii;
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale;
* Dill, Anethum graveolens;
* Endive, Cichorium endivia ‘Green Bowl’;
Eschallot, Allium cepa var. aggregatum;
Fennel, Florence, Foeniculum vulgare Azoricum Group ‘Zefa-Fino’;
Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum;
* Green Amaranth, Amaranthus viridis;
* Huauzontle, Chenopodium berlandieri;
Japanese parsley, Cryptotaenia japonica;
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix;
* Lagos spinach, Celosia spicata;
Landcress, Barbarea vulgaris;
Lebanese cress, Aethionema coridifolium;
Lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus;
* Lemongrass, Native, Cymbopogon flexuosus;
* Love-lies-bleeding, Amaranthus caudatus;
Love-lies-bleeding, Amaranthus caudatus ‘Green’;
Lettuce, Lactuca sativa ‘First Fleet’;
Marjoram, Origanum marjorana;
Mexican tree spinach, Cnidoscolus aconitifolius;
* Mint, Corsican, Mentha requienii;
Mint, native, Mentha satureoides;
Mint, Moroccan, Mentha spicata;
Mizuna, Brassica juncea var. japonica ‘Red’;
Mizuna, Brassica juncea var. japonica ‘Ruby Streaks’;
* Mustard, Brassica juncea ‘Osaka Purple’;
* Mustard, Brassica juncea ‘Giant Red’;
* Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus;
Nettle, annual, Urtica urens;
Old man saltbush, Atriplex nummularia;
Onion, Tree or Egyptian Walking, Allium x proliferum;
Onion, Welsh perennial, or perennial spring onion, aka scallion, Allium fistulosum;
Pandan, Pandanus amaryllifolius;
* Parsley, Petroselenium crispum ‘Italian flat-leaved’;
* Purslane, Wild, Portulaca oleracea;
Radicchio, Cichorium intybus;
* Rocket, Wall or wild, Eruca saliva;
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Variegata’;
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Fairy Stars’;
* Stinking Roger, Tagetes minuta;
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Ace of Spades’;
Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’;
Thyme, Variegated, Thymus serpyllum ‘Variegata’;
Variegated four seasons herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Variegatus’;
Variegated four seasons herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Bayside Beauty’;
Vietnamese mint, Persicaria odorata;

Edible petals

Bedding Begonia, Begonia semperflorens;
Begonia, Begonia ‘Dragon Wings’;
* Cranberry Hibiscus, Hibiscus acetosella (excellent for tea);
Canna, Canna iridiflora;
Goldenrod, Solidago sp.;
* Stinking Roger, Tagetes minuta;

Edible seed

Chilean wine palm, Jubaea chilensis;
Fennel, Florence, Foeniculum vulgare Azoricum Group ‘Zefa-Fino’;
Pigeon pea, Cajanus cajan;


Banana (green), Musa x sapientum ‘Java Blue’;
Banana (green), Musa x sapientum ‘Ladyfinger’;
Capsicum, Capsicum annuum ‘Corno di Toro’;
Chilean wine palm, Jubaea chilensis (preserved in pandan-flavoured syrup);
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’;
* Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Long Red Cayenne’;
* Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Piri Piri’;
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Bangkok Bobby’;
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix;
Lemon, Citrus x limon ‘Meyer’;
Lemon, Citrus x limon ‘Villa Franca Variegata’;
Lime, Tahitian, Citrus x latifolia;
* Mouse Melon, Melothria scabra;
* Pawpaw, Carica papaya ‘Southern Red’;
Pepino, Solanum muricatum;
Tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum ‘Apollo’;

Medicinal / Spices

Aloe vera – leaf juice used to heal sunburn, scratches, and for shampoo;
Bulbine frutescens – leaf juice used to treat burns, rashes, as an infusion for sore throats;
Brahmi herb, Bacopa monnieri – aids cognitive function;
Cardamom, Eletteria cardamomum;
Cardamom, False, Alpinia nutans;
* Catnip, Nepeta cataria; the juice left by rubbing elbows and ankles with fresh leaves helps deter mosquitoes;
Galangal, Alpinia galangal – spice used like ginger with similar properties;
Ginger, Culinary, Zingiber officinalis – spice that helps decongestion of catarrh, aids digestion, blood flow;
Ginger, Shampoo, Zingiber zerumbet – from Seed Savers. Juice from leaves and roots (rhizomes) used to wash hair;
* Greater celandine, Chelidonium majus – stem juice kills warts on hands;
Krachai (root), Boesenbergia rotunda;
Rosemary, dwarf, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Benenden Blue’;
Rosemary, fastigiate, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Miss Jessopp’;
* Skullcap, Blue, Scutellaria lateriflora;
Turmeric, Curcuma longa – spice with anti-cancer, anti-stress properties;

* denotes a volunteer crop
Total 101 taxa

Growing Winged Yam, 2004 - 2015
Growing Winged Yam, 2004 – 2015

Jerry Coleby-Williams
25th July 2015


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Sylvia Hinschen says:

    I have some small arrowroot yams. How do you cook them and for how long?

    1. If you read my latest blog ‘In Production Today’, you will note that Arrowroot is Canna edulis. Yam is in the genus Dioscorea. Please advise which species you are talking about.

  2. May I ask a question about Landcress please? I have some planted between my kale this season and it is growing well, however, as I rotate my vegie plantings, do I move the Landcress to join the next season’s kale planting? Where it is growing now is where the fruiting crop, probably sweetcorn, will be next. If I move it around do I divide it up to get more plants or do I have to get seed and start more cress off? Thank you Jerry and I hope you dont mind me being off-topic but I didn’t know where else to ask my question. Joy

    1. Simply follow crop rotation, planting the companions together as companions.

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