At Permaculture Paradise Institute, we enjoy discovering and rediscovering rare and different types of plants, food crops, food trees and more. We believe that if these plants or trees were given enough attention, they can serve as a permanent solution to the hunger challenges which the country faces every year. Mother Nature is very generous and offers us a variety of beneficial plants, our job is to know how we can utilize them.
A perfect example of a rare food crop is the Air Potato (Dioscorea bulbifera), we fondly refer to the air potatoes as Potato in the air! Before we go any further, let us first clarify that an Air Potato is in fact not a Potato, nor does it belong to the potato family, the name is of course a bit misleading right? Well, an Air potato belongs to the Yam family, it got its name merely because it produces potato-like growths. It should be known that there are several varieties of Air potatoes some of which are edible, the edible varieties of Dioscorea bulbifera can be cultivated as a food crop.
An Air potato is a perfect choice for farmers who practice or would like to practice sustainable agriculture, agro-ecology, and syntropic agriculture above all Permaculture. As a crop, an air potato is Drought-tolerant, fast growing (roughly grows 8 inches per day-Wikipedia), suitable for xeriscaping and can also be grown for ornamental purposes. As food, air potatoes offer high nutrition value to human beings and they are a good source of flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory benefits.
Air Potatoes can also be used for medicinal purposes. For instance, in some parts of Asia they are used in traditional medicine to help aid against diarrhea, sore throats and jaundice. They are also known to medicinally to treat conjunctivitis, diarrhea and dysentery .
As For the farmers who don’t trust or rely on weather forecasts when farming, they can rely on Air Potatoes to help in predicting when rains are due. How does a mere plant do this? Well, air potatoes hibernate during the dry season and come out again only a month or two before the onset on the first rains. So this can help the farmer know when to expect rains and use that knowledge to make sound decisions.
Cultivation of Air Potatoes is very easy, cheap and less demanding for a lot of reasons. Firstly, you only plant an air potato once, like you do with trees and still harvest them every year. Secondly, even after you plant them, you won’t have to worry about how to take care of them because they basically take care of themselves. This means that you can grow Air potatoes while focusing on other more demanding crops in your field. On top of that you won’t need to look for seedlings each and every year because the bulbils that fall off from matured plants sprout into new plants and you also you can also use the tubers to plant new Air potatoes. As a farmer, all you need to do before planting them to carefully choose a planting site for the air potatoes as their characteristic of growing so well can turn out to be invasive for other crops in the field.
If you would like to know more about Air potatoes and other rare crops, please come and visit our Paradise.