Friday, March 22, 2013

Yam I am

I love yams. Most of us call them sweet potatoes, but the ones I like are really yams. What's the difference? A truly sweet potato is a member of the morning glory family of plants. Yams belong to to a different clan (Dioscorea), known for their edible tubers, not their delicate flowers. Neither are related to white (yellow, purple) potatoes which are members of the nightshade clan (Solanum tuberosum).  I love yams baked, french fried, souffle-ed, made into soup, made into pies, ad infinitum.  Also, yams are NOT food that will kill you. Check them out.

This year, I had a Food Coop organic yam sprout in the veggie bin. (Be aware, many grocery store yams are now coated with chemicals to prevent the yams and potatoes from sprouting)  I don't like to kill accidental life, especially with such a strong will to live, so I hit Google to see if I could grow the little devils. I found this and this that told me how to get started.

I followed the directions and now have 3 little yam plants (with more on the way) in small pots of soil.
In case you decide you want to join the Yamboree and don't have a source of free bushel baskets or other suitable container, let me help.  I found lots of places with low-cost baskets but their shipping was INSANE -- most more than double the cost of the baskets, i.e. $30 for baskets and $60 for shipping. No thanks. Buckets, old horse toughs or, my favorite, last year's plastic baby pool will do. If you insist on bushel baskets, I found the best deal at Lehman's.  If you buy 4 or more, the price drops to $8 each and the shipping is under $10 for 4 full bushel baskets for a total of around $50. Ya gotta grow about 30 lbs of organic yams for that to break even. 

Of course, you can grow these in the ground but take some precautions. If you have gophers, some hardware cloth under your loosened soil should reduce the varmint's share of your bounty.

There is some goodness to the basket idea. In the hot, dry high desert, they could be moved either into partial shade in summer heat or full sun in the winter. These can also be placed near other plants to provide evaporative cooling and better humidity during the deep heat of summer and under some cover to prevent rotting during the monsoon. Yes, if I use baskets I'll need to grow a bunch of yams to cover their cost burden.  The current price of organic yams is almost $2 per pound. Eventually I  hope to support my habit from homegrown!


  1. I am so looking forward to being able to grow most of our our food, along with preserving it. Keep working your skill set of farming, as most people don't have a clue.

  2. Great post. Quick question - if you were to prepare yams for cooking how would you slice them? I know some people prefer them chopped in thinner slices and then layered in an oven-safe bowl. Personally, this is the method that I'm most partial too. If I can keep my knives sharp (I use the DMT knife sharpener stone) then I can achieve very nice thin slices that when layered all together produce an excellent dish, especially great for Thanksgiving! Just my two cents.