A Cold Casita and More About Wild Yams

Lynne called today from Salt Springs to ask which replacement converter we had bought.  I was so tickled to hear from her.  Amazingly, our phone connection held, which is better than any cell reception I got when we were down there!  I’m hoping we will be able to get to Florida before they have to leave, but am not sure if we can make it work.

Tonight is predicted to be the first really cold, below freezing night we’ve had this winter.  I have the Casita winterized, but need to bring all the canned and staple foods that I generally leave in the trailer inside so they don’t freeze.

Greene Deane, author and prolific wild edible foods video producer, has tentatively identified my wild yams (from yesterday’s post) as Dioscorea Polystachya.  Due to the immense variability of the leaves, he hesitated to give me an absolutely positive identification, but with that lead, I should be able to name my yams when they come up this year.

What’s cool is, if that is what they are, I’ve added another excellent wild edible to my natural grocery sources!

Here is a quote from Green Deane’s website about it:

One-year-old roots weigh about 3 ounces, two-year-old roots, a pound. The root, in good soil, can grow up to three feet long and weight up to five pounds.  Its flavor is between a sweet potato and a regular potato. It is 20% starch, 75% water, 0.1% B1, and has 10 to 15 mgs vitamin C. The most common use is cooked like a potato. The Japanese prefer it raw. However, varieties can differer and I do not recommend you eat it raw. Cook it, or experiment with it raw very carefully.

Longing to Get Out Soon — and Studying Wild Yams

We’ve finally recovered from being sick and are antsy to get out camping again.  We’ve had decent temperatures, but the rain has been pretty constant.  We didn’t want to head out camping only to have to spend all of our time inside the Casita.

wild yam leaves

Wild yam leaves found about 1/3 mile from our house a couple of years ago

Now it’s turning cooler again, so it will probably be a few more weeks before camping weather returns.

In the meantime, I’ve been studying books, videos and internet articles on high calorie wild edible foods that would really help supplement our diet in times of runaway inflation or food scarcity.

I found two kinds of wild yam when I was digging groundnuts a couple of years ago.  I was pretty upset because wild yams are invasive and I was afraid they would wipe the groundnuts out in the area.

Tiny new first year wild yam tubers — this is the photo that was stolen and cropped

I posted these photos (sometime back in 2010), but am reposting them since I have a renewed interest in them.  By the way, in researching on the net, I discovered some fly-by-night outfit in New Zealand had stolen one of my photos, cropped it, and was using it to advertise his wild yam products.  I’m pretty used to that happening, though, based on when I had a web graphics business.

But I’ve found more information on wild yams and one  of them, the Winged Yam (Dioscorea alata),  is a good edible.  It’s the same kind of yam that is sold in stores, only it has reverted to its wild state.  The roots are around 10 pounds each (think the calories of a 10 pound bag of potatoes) and easy to dig up, unlike the wild sweet potato which is horribly labor intensive to dig.

A different type of wild yam

A different type of wild yam

I think that the kinds of wild yam that grow near here are ones that would be considered famine food only as they contain a compound called  Diosgenin that is an effective birth control agent and not something you would want to eat a lot of.  I plan to submit my photos to an expert for positive identification so I’ll know for sure.


[on edit — I found out that my yam is a great edible!  More next post!]

Here’s a video on wild yams if you are interested.

Disappointing Foraging Day

groundnut leaves

Groundnut leaves showing thin, twining stems

I had spotted an extensive patch of groundnuts growing about a half mile from our house.  So today, despite the intermittent rain, I headed out to dig a few.

Things didn’t go well right from the start.  First of all, they were growing in heavy, damp clay that made digging very messy and difficult.

Secondly, groundnuts that I have dug in the past had thin skins with no lumps or thickened bumps except on the oldest tubers at the end of the string.

groundnut tubers

Groundnut tubers

These all had dark, tough skins.  Also, they were all small.  I am guessing that growing in the heavy clay is the reason.  And then the rain came.

So I took my handful of groundnuts home and cleaned them.

Usually I just  boil them in salted water, then toss them in butter when they are done.  They have a wonderful potato flavor, but the texture is a bit denser than potato.  The skins add a nutty flavor that tastes kind of like peanuts.

But these were a disaster.  Thick, tough, inedible skins, and fibrous, barely edible flesh.  So I threw them out.

wild yam leaves

Wild yam leaves

Growing among the groundnuts, I found wild yams.  Two kinds.  I have found wild sweet potatoes all around our area, but had never noticed wild yams before.

Just to see what the root looked like, I dug up 3 or 4 young plants with only one leaf.  Each one had a tiny, round tuber at the end.  Curious, I dug up two larger, but still young, plants.  They had small potato-looking tubers.

wild yam tubers

Wild yam tubers

I brought them home and spent several hours researching wild yams that grow in the Southeast.  Most of the information available was pathetic.  One page erroneously said that all Dioscorea with alternate leaves are poisonous.  Others said the tubers were tasteless and inedible.  But a couple of credible sounding sites said the roots were both edible and medicinal.  And many gave the medicinal uses of the plant.

After a few hours of reading, I concluded that it was safe to eat the tubers, but it probably would not be wise to eat too many of them at a time.

a different type of yam

Dioscorea villosa?

I boiled them in lightly salted water.  They were firm and tender-crunchy.  Not much taste.  I think if I were to cook them again, I would slice them and add them sparingly to a spicy dish for texture.

But I probably won’t eat them again due to their medicinal properties.  But that’s part of the fun of foraging to me — discovering new plants and exploring their uses.

Even on disappointing days. 🙂

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