Aerial Potato

Tonielle Christensen Land & Nature Stewardship, Plant Nursery Leave a Comment

Aerial Potato


Common Name:  Aerial Potato, Air Potato, Bitter Yam, Cheeky Yam, Ganmangu, Wild Yam.

Latin Name:  Dioscorea bulbifera.

Origin:  Africa, Asia and Australia.

Description (what it looks like):  A long-lived vine that produces short-lived climbing stems each year from an underground tuber, reaching 10m in height.  Rounded to egg-shaped edible tubers (1-10cm across) are produced along these stems and usually grow 4-10cm long.  Its alternately arranged leaves (5-30cm long) are usually heart-shaped with 5-11 prominent veins.  Separate male and female flowers are borne on separate plants, with most plants being male.  The small flowers are arranged in elongated drooping clusters in the upper leaf forks.  These flowers have six cream or greenish 'petals' (1.5-3 mm long) and are fragrant.

Uses (function):  Living, edible fence or for screen for privacy.  Edible tubers.  Dried vine good for making ropes to use around your permaculture garden.  Warning: Aerial yam is regarded as an environmental weed in south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales.  Best to grow on a vertical trellis in the middle of your yard, surrounded by lawn, so you can mow down any free-ranging sprouts to avoid spreading.

Nutritional value:  Has been used as a folk remedy to treat conjunctivitis, diarrhea and dysentery, among other ailments.  Many tribes have been consuming these for generations.  Although some wild varieties can be poisonous, many varieties of this species are cultivated for human consumption.

Growing details (propagation, seed etc):  This species has potential to become invasive.  Please consider the location of your planting seriously or resort to keeping confined in container gardening.  Prevent it from growing over your fence and spreading into your neighbour’s yard or adjoining easements or waterways.  Keep aerial potato vines tamed, trained and harvested.  It reproduces mainly be stem tubers (i.e. bulbils).  Sprout wrapped in moist material in a dry, dark place.  Plant out when shoots appear spacing 7-15 cm apart.  Aerial potato tubers are easily picked off.  Save the best for eating and use the smallest for planting.

Best time to grow:  Spring.

Soil:  Rich, fertile, well draining soil.

Sun:  Full sun to partial shade.

Water:  Keep moist.  Water deeply once a week in dry weather.

How to eat it:  Similar tasting to a regular potato / pumpkin / yam / sweet potato all mixed together.  Best peeled and then cooked like any regular recipe containing potatoes.  Mashing it is delicious.  Can be slightly bitter, but boiling helps to remove this in some salty water.  Peel, slice and fry up on the BBQ.  Can be baked whole as well, with olive oil, salt and garlic.  Prepare in the same fashion as you would other root vegetables.


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