I was introduced to this “potato that grows above the ground” on an organic farm tour in Dominica. It was one of the plants we were most excited about, but because we only got the Patois name (and it turns out I heard that wrong, too), were never able to identify it. Davin and I spent hours searching various spellings, and even guessed at what it could be (a yam) with no luck.
And then just like that Davin found it! Dioscorea bulbifera, aka “air potato” is an African yam (of course) that produces potato-like bulbils along the vining stems. There’s quite a bit of controversy around the plant because not all varieties are considered edible. Many uncultivated forms are very bitter if not poisonous, and there is some debate about how to prepare it to make it safe.
The plant is currently considered an invasive threat in warmer parts of the United States. It’s a very fast-growing vine that can grow up high into large trees and disperse itself easily via the bulbils.
For all of these reasons, the air potato is one weird edible that I would advise against growing.
Blackberries and greenberries aka Morelle verte (Solanum opacum)
The harvest is so bountiful this year. It’s no surprise really, considering the weather we’ve had. Dry and hot, then wet, followed again by heat. The plants love it. I collected enough herbs from our community garden plot yesterday to cover the kitchen floor. Literally. I then spent hours preparing it all to preserve by varying methods. Let’s just say, we’re not going to be short on herbs this winter.
If you’re looking for a way to use up some of those baseball bat-sized zucchinis, I highly recommend this zucchini bread recipe from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks. It is a revelation. We’ve made it several times, altering the optional ingredients, and it comes out perfect and incredibly delicious every single time. I will never use another zucchini bread recipe again. Go make some now. You will not regret it.
I made this last batch using a giant roll of cinnamon I brought back from Dominica. Look at the size of it against a typical supermarket piece! In fact, the small, locally purchased piece is probably not cinnamon, but cassia, a cinnamon substitute more commonly found in North American supermarkets. Grinding that big piece of cinnamon was very satisfying, the smell so wonderfully sweet and aromatic. I love that every time I use this spice — which judging by the size of it will be for a very long time — I will be taken back to our trip.
What are you making with your bounty?
Earlier this year I discovered that the fruit from the Kousa Dogwood tree (Cornus kousa) are edible and I’ve been waiting until the end of summer to get a taste.
The first fruit on my friend Barry’s tree are starting to ripen and I managed, over the weekend, to collect a few from out of the clutches of the neighborhood squirrels. The fruit are ripe and optimal eating when they turn from green to bright red, and from hard to squishy. You should be able to squish the orange fruit from the centre easily. That happens to be just how I ate my bounty. The skin is unpleasant tasting. It looks like a lychee, with the texture of some of my favourite tropicals, sugar apple and sour sop. The insides are bright orange and soft, with a couple of hard pits. It tastes like papaya.
I’ve read that there is a lot of variation between trees and varieties, so if you have the chance, I’d suggest trying fruit from a sampling of trees. The fruit I ate are small but tasty. They are from a landscape tree that is bred for the flowers, not the fruit. But there are varieties with much larger fruit that are worth searching out if you’re looking for more than a light snack.
- Paw Paw (Asimina triloba): A local and unusual tree fruit that is also coming into season.
- Search this site by the tag, Weird Edibles to find out about other unusual vegetables, herbs, and fruit to grow or forage.