Anyone here growing edible Air Potatoes? (Dioscorea bulbifera)

I dug up a small Chinese Yam that grew senescent too early (I had accidentally lopped off the growing tip early in the season). I hadn’t planned on eating it but my mom wanted to taste it, so we cooked it up. It was great, like D. alata.

We also cooked up some Guinea Yams (with squash, cod and fried ham) and some air potatoes. As usual, the air potatoes turned the water brown. Not my favorite yam, flavor-wise, but they still make for a decent meal (unlike poor-quality alatas and rotundatas… When they’re good, they’re great, but when they’re bad, they’re terrible).


Oh definitely! I’ve grown obsessed with root-level crops lately and have been collecting as many as I could find. I’ve racked up quite a species count with the Dioscoreas, I’ve attempted potatoes several times (with disastrous results), I’m growing Wombat Berry, Alpinia caerulea, Turmeric, Yautía (Xanthosoma), Peanuts, Jarilla chocola, Mauka, Tuberous Vetch, and I’m sprouting Bunium bulbocastanum, Hog Peanut and Apios americana. I’m waiting on the mail for Ipomoea costata, Woodsorrel Turnip (Oxalis tetraphylla) and Anredera cordifolia (¡Invasive! ¡Handle with care!). My sister is gonna send me Oca, Ulluco and Mashua, though I don’t expect good results in this climate. There’s loads more crops for me to find, but this is the list so far. The big ones are great, but I also like the little treats like Pignuts and Bayabang Fern.

My Lerenes (Calathea allouia) failed to produce a crop of tubers because I cramped them too much in too small a pot (3 heavy-feeding plants in one tote), but I got nearly 50 rhizomes for growing after I divided them up.

Impressive that it could resist so much cold, especially when elevated on a pedestal like that. Not much insulation. That’s an ornamental cultivar? How is it for flavor?


thanks for the photos @Caesar. Sure made me hungry! The sweet potato i posted(on pedestal) is actually a deep-orange fleshed variety got from a hispanic supermarket, not really sure what cultivar, but is good eating.

used to grow ornamental alpinia’s and nicolaia’s. Really miss those. Striking figures in the garden, and blend nicely with heliconia’s.

1 Like

That sweet potato sounds like the one we call “Batata Mameya” over here. There’s a distinct preference for the deep orange ones over the white or purple types over here.

Did you find that your Alpinias did best in the sun or in the shade? Mine’s been in full sun for a couple of years, and is strong and vigorous, but looks a bit leggy and narrow-leaved, and a bit pale-stemmed, like it’s getting too much sun.

I’ve an update on the air potato. I mentioned it’s flavor as being merely decent, not my favorite yam. I wasn’t enthusiastic about it as I tucked into my dinner plate. Well, I had a nagging suspicion from the start that was confirmed today… They taste much better fresh! My grandmother plucked a fresh one and cooked it up on the spot. It had a pale interior and barely leached anything into the water. On tasting it, it was like eating a potato, very good. The ones I had cooked the other day had sat on my table for over a month, aging, dehydrating and increasing in bitterness over time. So that’s the key… Don’t wait for them to drop, pluck and cook as needed, never letting them age too much off the vine.


this might be species-dependent. We grew our alpinia’s(ornamental purpurata’s) in full-sun, and in semi-shade, and those under full sun were more compact in growth, so relatively more blooms vs amount of foliage. Those grown under shade had longer-lasting blooms though, as the sun does have a bleaching effect. Never had experience with coerulea’s, btw. Our nicolaia’s were more sensitive to full sun

1 Like

Hello Cesar that’s great to find you here! :smiley:

My dioscorea alata from last summer and the harvest in last November…

My dioscorea alatas on pots…

My dioscorea alata tubers. They are smaller than i thought and they are white, not purple… but very healthy. Here they are:

This is the boiled d. alata. It is very viscous and difficult to pell. I boiled it in salted water and i like it. It’s a neutral flavour and good to eat. ;D

1 Like

Hi Luis, great to see you here too!

Your alata harvest looks decent. The wild ones in my back hillside always bear small the first year, but they grow huge after a couple of years in the ground.

I’ve an update regarding my own yams…

The purple alata (Dark Night St. vincent) hasn’t produced bulbils, and I suspect that it won’t this year. In the event that it does, I’m sending them your way; otherwise, I’ll try to send a root piece.

As for the African Air Potato (Sena), one vine already has a small bulbil growing, but said vine is full of curled up leaves, and I’m concerned it might have a virus. They’re all sharing the same pot, but if a healthier-looking vine bears bulbils, those are the ones I’m gonna distribute and propagate. Otherwise, I’ll leave it to your discretion if you don’t mind the curled leaves.

I’m in the process of acquiring a second African type from a Hawaiian vendor, and I’m trying to germinate a second Indian type said to be superior to the first. More for information to come as the results come in.

1 Like

Hello my friend! That’s great to have news from you! What you think it’s the best i will accept.
Best regards! :smiley:

1 Like

Its nice to find some people interested & growing these crops.
The interest in them should be huge, but they are marginalized instead.

I grow several species and cultivars. But like everyone else its near impossible to get hold of some of the better varieties.
I have hunted and begged, bribed, for years to get the ones that I have.

I do have a pubescent leafed, thorny vined D. Bulbifera that grows edible air bulbils, and a smooth slightly angular cultivar, also a large orange fleshed one.

I would do almost anything to get more species and cultivars.


Hi! Thank you for your reply, it was very interesting! The variability on dioscorea bulbifera is huge! I saw one one variety from Brazil that is purple inside… impressive!
Do you have any orange fleshed bulb that you can share with me? Thank you very much!

1 Like

Pubescent and thorny? I didn’t think bulbifera had those traits. Check the vines to be absolutely sure, the stems should be cylindrical and fluted, twining from lower right to upper left (S Twist); leaves singular and heart-shaped (not triple nor 5-leaved), and alternating in the upper stems (not paired).

In addition to growing out my own collection, I’m actually hoping to get all my varieties into the hands of other hobbyists. I still have plenty of smaller bulbils from my Indian strain. The African strain hasn’t properly started production, I’m waiting on a second Indian strain to sprout and start growing (exceedingly bumpy), and I managed to get another African strain from Hawaii that I’m waiting for in the mail (and given the physical traits I saw in the photos, I suspect that it actually is the variety referred to as “Hawaii”). I’m hoping to get a third African strain from Las Cañadas Mexico, but that’ll require assistance.

I’m also trying to learn the varietal names of each type I acquire, and if nameless, then have the sender name the variety (or naming it myself if need be). I consider it extremely important for each individual strain to retain its identity, in order to keep track of each variety. It’d be shame if we spent much time and effort trying to procure a variety, only for it to end up being one you already have.

The round ones are Asian, the angular ones African. Is your yellow-fleshed type edible like the thorny and angular types?

I’d love to trade with you if you’re able and willing. I can send each bulbifera strain as it starts bearing, in exchange for the bulbiferas you have. I have several other yams species, but I haven’t been able to multiply them efficiently (some are new, and most are not bulbil-bearers). The pentaphylla should sprout soon, and the dodecaneura is already growing.

1 Like

Sounds awesome!
I have a few large bulbil forming varieties/species that are not the DB’s.
I’m not 100% on what they are, even if they are just different cultivars.
How can I get in touch with you?
My email is in reply to your plant assassin comment on the purple bulbifera.
get hold of me and we can talk.


well then, we would like for you to post a video of yourself moonwalking…

kidding aside, i had the same exact mania when i lived in the tropics. There have been times people thought i was ‘rubbernecking’ at women passersby, when i was actually checking out the trees and vines that happen to be around them :laughing:



PM sent. :wink:


That mental image is gold! :rofl:

In all seriousness, trying to forage for interesting stuff in a public place is hard. At the very least one draws awkward stares from strangers, at worst you’ll draw the attention of the local police. I’ve had to let go of a few botanical gems 'cause I didn’t wanna get in trouble.


i have knocked on people’s doors many times to ‘solicit’, and practically all of them were kind enough to share or sell some cuttings or rhizomes.

1 Like

First saw the ‘air potato’ in Plant City, Florida a few years back.
Picked up a few…but was uncertain if I could eat them.
(The do remind me of a plant we refer to as “cinnamon vine” in KY…but much larger).

1 Like


Do NOT eat them!!!

The variety growing wild in Florida (and often cultivated as an ornamental) is extremely toxic (I’m under the impression that they’re lethal, but even if not, they’re apparently bad enough to “mess you up”, as David Goodman says). If you plan on eating air potatoes, you should only ever consume confirmed edible varieties.

African types (with angular and lobed tubers) are almost guaranteed edible in the Americas (I don’t think the toxic African types made it out of the continent, but don’t quote me on that). The Asian types may or may not be edible, depending on the particular cultivar.

Cinnamon vine is edible, both the root and the bulbil (in fact, that’s the “Chinese Yam” referred to earlier in the thread, where I picked up a small, elongate one and cooked it). If you get a good crop of bulbils, you’re u can boil 'em for 10 minutes and eat 'em whole, skin-on, or cook 'em like home fries. I haven’t had a fair crop yet, but someday.

Edit: “tuber” to “bulbil”


I boiled up some bulbils from my Madeira Vine (Anredera cordifolia) recently, and they tasted good, like potatoes. It’s not strictly an “Air Potato”, but it’s a bulbil-bearing vine, so close enough.




Anyone else working with this species? Handle with care, it can be very invasive.


Hi! Hello Ceasar! The dioscorea bulbifera you sent me is starting to sprout! My yam berries (Dioscorea polystachya) are sprouting, already with small leaves… the first yam to sprout! :blush:

Some info about yam berries…

Tiny Mukago Potatoes

Tiny Mukago potatoes are very small, aerial tubers, most averaging the size of a shelled English pea, approximately one centimeter in diameter. They are oval to round in shape and have dark brown to gray, russeted and rough textured skin. The flesh is pale cream to white with a sticky texture, similar to taro root. When cooked, Tiny Mukago potatoes take on a soft, bean-like texture and have an earthy, slightly bitter taste.

Tiny Mukago potatoes are available in the fall.

Current Facts
Tiny Mukago potatoes, botanically classified as Dioscorea japonica, are the small, aerial tubers of the yamaimo, or Japanese yam plant. The yamaimo is known as the mountain potato and is best known for its large underground tuber which can take up to three or four years to mature. Tiny Mukago potatoes are the edible, aerial bulbils that appear annually and grow on the vine of the plant. Once harvested, they are planted to grow more yamaimo root or are utilized as a food source. Tiny Mukago potatoes are also known as Potato Bulbs, Potato Buds, Yam Berries and Yam Nuts. They are considered to be a delicacy in Japan.

Nutritional Value
Tiny Mukago potatoes contain vitamin B1, B2, B6, and C as well as potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Tiny Mukago potatoes are best suited for both raw or cooked applications and taste best when boiled lightly, grilled, or fried in oil and salted. Tiny Mukago potatoes are often served as a bar snack in Japan. They are also used in miso soup and boiled along with rice to make Tiny Mukago gohan or potato rice. They pair well with gingko nuts, burdock root, lotus root, carrots, chestnuts, mushrooms, garlic, parsley, kombu, and sake. Tiny Mukago potatoes have a relatively long shelf life and should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.

Ethnic/Cultural Info
Tiny Mukago potatoes are a rarity outside of Japan, where native Ibarakians in Tsukuba and Ibaraki still often refer to the Mukago by their ancient name, Nukago. Tiny Mukago potatoes are used in shojin-ryori (Japanese temple food), which makes use of foraged ingredients. Tiny Mukgao potatoes were also mentioned in a Shijo school text, one of the earliest records devoted to the preparation and presentation of food in Japan. The text, which dates back to 1489 BCE, indicates that an elaborate plate, which ought to be appropriate for the rank of the person the dish is being served to, should be used to serve skewers of grilled Tiny Mukago potatoes and fish cakes.

Tiny Mukago potatoes are native to Japan, China, and Korea. The yamaimo plant grows naturally along rivers and forest edges and in the mountains in Japan, where it has a history of cultivation dating back to 50,000 BCE. Today, the yamaimo plant is grown in home gardens both for its large, underground yams and for the Tiny Mukago aerial tubers. Tiny Mukago potatoes thrive in temperate climates and are found mainly in Japan in home gardens and at local markets.

1 Like