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1
I read up on this plant a few months ago and decided to give it a shot; I'm waiting on my plant in the mail right now. Edible leaves and potato-like rhizomes, plus a prolific profusion of aerial bulbils that I was fascinated by (not unlike the bulbil-bearing yams; it seems like a great way to harvest roots without digging). The only drawback (and a big one at that) is its potential for invasiveness, so please... Handle with care. Responsible management is important.

The leaves are said to resemble those of its close relative, Malabar Spinach (the other Binahong, Basella alba), with a similar - possibly stronger - flavor and a mucilaginous quality. The rhizomes are also thoroughly (¿distastefully?) mucilaginous if eaten raw, like its other relative Ulluco (Ullucus tuberosus), but with a mild starchy flavor instead of the typical dirt beetroot flavor of Ulluco; they're said to resemble potato when baked. (As an interesting tangent, I've read that Ulluco greens are far superior to its relatives, and indeed superior to genuine Spinach, yet for some reason they barely receive recognition.)

As for the bulbils, this is the part where it gets mildly frustrating and confusing. In most of the sites I read through, they were barely acknowledged as anything other than propagation material. If recognized as anything else, it was usually as medicinal: they've been proven to have anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer and hepatoprotective qualities, and they may also increase nitric oxide levels in the brain (a minor red flag for me, but I'll get back to that later). A few places went so far as to call them inedible without elaborating further, but that didn't make sense to me at all. The leaves, "roots" and even tender stems (shoots?) are all said to be edible, so why would a tender tuber-like bulbil not be as edible as the rest of the plant? Consider me biased, but I had to find a site that called them edible (or at the very least one that addressed the discrepancy). I found it, with this link stating that the bulbils can be roasted and eaten like chestnuts. So with that bit of info, I do intend to experiment with cooking the bulbils, as I will with the rhizomes.

Regarding the three medicinal traits (mentioned in passing here), I don't think they would detract from the edibility of the bulbils. Regarding the nitric oxide, I'm a bit more wary but also ignorant. Does cooking reduce or eliminate its precursor? (ancordin). Is nitric oxide a bad thing to have in the brain, or something neutral? The article in question (summarized in Green Deane's page here) seemed to imply that it wasn't a problem (something about low cytotoxicity?), but I may have misread that.

Whatever the case, I hope to have fun with this species. Perhaps I should call it Basell Yam... It's a tuberous vine even if it isn't a yam, and it's technically not a potato either.

Further links:

1 - http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=7980

2 - http://radix4roots.blogspot.com/2012/04/anredera-its-binahong-time.html

3 - https://www.milkwood.net/2014/07/25/madeira-vine-an-ironic-harvest/

2
Hi all. I have a few dozen breadfruit nuts from a fruit that was harvested today. Most sprouted within the fruit and already have a small taproot. Good for nuts or for grafting other Artocarpus.

The price is 10 seeds for $3

Shipped in media.


Gallery:

Processing the seeds:


Total seed count:


A cooked batch from an underripe fruit:

3
Hi all! This post is where I'm going to advertise my root crops. I hadn't actually intended on doing it until after the end of the harvest season (December to February), but since I'm going to harvest my Lerén and Potato Mint in a few days (and I already have a few bulbils in hand), I decided to advertise all of it in a single place. I might be interested in trades, depending on what you have.

As stated elsewhere, I have PM'd previously interested parties prior to posting this, and if supplies run out, I will be taking note to provide on a first-come basis at next availability. So PM me what you're interested in, and if you didn't make it to this batch, I'll keep you in mind for the next month's batch.

I currently have some very few large bulbils of the edible Dioscorea bulbifera CV-1. Due to their size, I'm offering each at $5. I have a few medium bulbils on the vine that I might be able to pluck if need be, and those are at $2.50. There's a few smaller ones coming in, but I wouldn't pluck them until they reach medium size, to ensure viability. If I still get inquiries after this year's bulbils are gone, I'll dig up some of the roots from the 40-yam tote to supply, at $5. They'll be shipped in a paper bag (inside their package). They're likely to be dormant: last year's bulbils didn't sprout for me until May, despite being sown immediately on harvest.

Calathea allouia - Lerén rhizomes (not the tubers) are available at "2 pieces for $5", shipped in media unless you request otherwise.

Plectranthus rotundifolius - Hausa Potato Mint: rooted cuttings for $5 (potted in a party cup), 3 tiny tubers for $1 (if the plant made any tiny ones, like last year). Like the air potato, tubers will be dormant.

Bulbil production on Dioscorea polystachya seems meager so far. They can be provided on special request, but their dormancy is worse than bulbifera, so they'll take a good while longer to sprout.

So far, I don't expect bulbils on the purple D. alata this year, and the African Sena D. bulbifera started late in the game, but I'll update the situation as the season goes by.

I'm not comfortable sharing the Florido D. alata because I grew it in the same tub as some scabby potatoes; I don't wanna spread any pathogens. I'll be growing it again from a store-bought yam next year.

I haven't multiplied any of the Guinea Yams, not much to spare, but I might be able to spare a piece on special request. I don't know what to expect from the D. trifida this year, but I might have small pieces available at $3. All of these in this paragraph won't be harvested until the vines die back, between December and February.



Recap (currently available items):

D. bulbifera CV-1:
Large Bulbil / Root - $5
Medium Bulbil - $2.50

Lerén:
2 Rhizome Pieces - $5

Gone

Hausa Potato Mint:
Rooted Cuttings - $5
3 Tiny Tubers - $1

D. polystachya Bulbils - Special request.

All costs are mutually waived if we agree to a trade.

Disclaimer: Some of the species listed here may have invasive potential to varying degrees. Domestic edible air potatoes rarely last long in the wild, but having said that, please harvest and weed diligently to avoid escapees. Grow responsibly.

4
Tropical Fruit Discussion / Jarilla chocola
« on: September 18, 2018, 08:29:40 PM »
A papaya relative with a fruit that vaguely resembles a dragonfruit, I was interested in this one ‘cause it supposedly grows a root crop as well (though I don’t know if harvesting it kills the plant). So far, I’ve repeatedly been given hope only to have it dashed, and I’m rather frustrated. For one thing, the seeds are expensive (4 seeds a pack for $5.50 at Tradewinds). I initially bought 2 packs (8 seeds) only to have 4 pop up, of which 1 died off quickly (I suspect bitten by a roach). The remaining three were growing fine, but I was concerned that I might lack males or females (they’re dioecious), so I splurged on 2 more packs, only to have 2 of the original plants die off spontaneously. Maybe they lacked water? I thought they were fairly hydrated, the frustration is potent! Now I have 4 more seedlings coming up (hoping for more), and I’m working to get the big survivor up-potted to give it a fighting chance (it sure looks stronger). If I end up lacking either gender when flowering comes, I’ve half a mind to give up altogether. I’m used to having exotic seeds fail to sprout, but to watch them grow healthy and keel over for nothing is another layer of frustration altogether.

Here’s the survivor, its two dead siblings, and the new crop of seedlings:


5
Tropical Vegetables and Other Edibles / Passionberry - Solanum cleistogamum
« on: September 05, 2018, 11:52:10 PM »
Hi all. I've been looking for this one for a long time. There's little to no horticultural information about it online. I read about it through Outback Pride (Links one, two and three).

The only other major link I found that describes it in similar terms is The Bush Tomato Handbook (link here).

Apparently, it's the best of the bush tomatoes, and one of the best fruity solanums in general, highly aromatic, with a smokey caramel/vanilla/banana-like flavor.

Wikipedia treats it as a synonym of Solanum ellipticum, but that doesn't seem right. Most other places treat them separately, and the Handbook makes it clear that their fruits are very different, with S. ellipticum's fruit being considered very bitter. Even if they're the same species, they should probably be considered separate subspecies at least... It would be a very nasty surprise for someone to spend a couple of years growing S. ellipticum, hoping for sweet tasty fruits only to get some highly bitter ones at maturity. They're not interchangeable.

Does anyone have any experience with this species? They seem obscenely difficult to find, and I've failed to find even one source for them online. If anyone knows where to get seeds, please let me know, this one's high on the wish list.

6
Tropical Vegetables and Other Edibles / Solanaceae: A Very Basic Overview
« on: September 05, 2018, 11:47:16 PM »
Hi all. As you've seen with some of my other posts, I like to review and condense information on entire plant families at a time whenever one catches my attention. In this case, yams led me to potatoes, which led me to Solanums in general. So here I am, on the heels of another inspirational reverie, taking a look at all the info I can find on the Solanum family. Keep in mind I haven't grown or eaten most of the species in this family, so flavor descriptions are usually second-hand and may be off from what you've tasted: correct me whenever necessary.

This list is no-doubt incomplete, as there are many lesser-known and sometimes downright obscure species that are considered apt for human consumption, and sometimes several minor species are glossed over and/or condensed under a single banner. All contributions to the post are appreciated, from species names to culinary qualities.

To start, the genus Solanum proper, and what better species than the quintessential Solanum: the Eggplant (S. melongena). Eaten cooked, it has a thick (some describe it as "spongey" or "meaty") texture, and is good in savory dishes. I'm not sure how to describe the flavor, but I guess I would consider it somewhat starchy... It's been a while since I've had fried eggplant. There are bitter components in the fruit (mainly saponins), and their concentration is highly variable, with some varieties being quite bitter (and benefitting from a rinsing process prior to cooking), and some having no discernible bitterness. Said bitterness is not a toxicity concern unless you eat it raw. Additional species include the Ethiopian Eggplant (S. aethiopicum), which includes types grown for their edible leaves and types grown for their edible fruits (Scarlet Eggplant - synonym S. gilo), as well as the Turkeyberry (S. torvum), an edible yet bitter-fruited species that can be toxic under some circumstances, and is better used as a perennializing disease-resistant eggplant rootstock.

Like the eggplant, the Tomato needs no introduction. A species cluster previously classified in the genus Lycopersicon (now Solanum section Lycopersicon), the main species is S. lycopersicum. Thick, juicy, acidic, of variable sweetness and with umami flavor due to glutamates. Definitely used in savory dishes and sauces. There are several additional wild species that are closely related to the domestic stock, have similar culinary traits and can be crossbred without too much difficulty. If looking into wild tomatoes for consumption or crossbreeding, pay close attention to species and look for reputable sources, as some species can be toxic, and some dangerous Solanums bear the "Wild Tomato" moniker without being closely related. A few short paragraphs on one man's Wild Tomato crossbreeding program (along with his other projects) can be found here.

The Potato, that most wondrous of root crops, and the one that got me into this line of inquiry. Currently one major domestic species (Solanum tuberosum), and a very large cluster of associated wild species; I'll be using older taxonomic names to refer to the different types. I got most of my information from the Cultivariable blog (relevant links here), they've really dug deep into the literature. Now... Onwards:

The modern domestic potatoes are descended from day-neutral Chilean Potatoes (S. t. chilotanum), which in turn are descended from tetraploid Andean types (S. t. andigena), possibly crossed with one or more wild species (S. maglia?). Other wild and domestic species have contributed heavily to the modern potato. Tetraploid Andean types are descended from High-dormancy Diploids (S. t. stenotomum), possibly crossed to a wild species. Said High-dormancy Diploids also gave rise to Low-dormancy Diploids (S. t. phureja), and to several Frost-resistant Hybrids (S. ajanhuiri, S. juzepczukii and S. curtilobum). The Frost-resistant Hybrids tend to have unsafe levels of glycoalkaloids, and usually require processing prior to consumption. The probable web of inter-species relationships is summarized neatly in this flow-chart, sourced from the aforementioned website: link here.

There are several dozen species of Wild Potatoes (link here), almost all of which are toxic and unsuited to human consumption. Among the readily edible species are the Mexican Cimatli types (S. cardiophyllum and S. ehrenbergii), but even these have toxic variants, so care should be taken to source better germplasm. As for the remaining species, they can be bred to reduce the glycoalkaloid content and produce edible varieties (as seen here), but it should be considered a longer-term project; that said, even a casual breeder can do it, if they give the project time and attention.

Of peculiar interest to me is the idea of breeding potatoes for edible fruit. It's an idea that has received little to no attention, yet I think it holds potential. The fruits resemble tomatoes and eggplants to some degree, but they tend to accumulate the most toxins in the potato plant (they can be dangerous, even deadly if consumed). Nevertheless, it shouldn't be any more difficult to reduce fruit toxicity than it is to reduce tuber toxicity, as it's all the same toxins. Breeding for higher foliage toxicity (which helps to curb pests) would probably be an obstacle to fruit-breeding, as the toxins probably move more freely from foliage to fruit than they do to the tubers. Breeding for reduced foliage toxicity, on the other hand, would probably make the plant more susceptible to pests.

Luther Burbank managed to produce an edible-fruited potato by crossing to S. maglia (supposedly, but this is disputed here). It didn't breed true (probably because it was tetraploid), and he didn't take the time to fix the trait, so the variety was lost. Link here.

Less well-explored yet still decently popular in the garden are the fruity-flavored Solanums. The Tamarillo or Tree Tomato (Solanum betaceum) has a complex tropical fruit taste, with some lesser, savory tomato-like notes in most varieties (the red ones, particularly); the skin is distastefully bitter. The Dwarf Tamarillo (S. abutiloides) is undomesticated and more variable in quality; the best examples have tropical fruit flavor like its bigger relative (minus the savory notes), and the bitterness in the skin can be more tolerable (though peeling is often recommended anyway); seemingly good breeding potential. <<Edit: S. sibundoyense has the largest fruit of its section, with some trees bearing sweet, juicy, pleasant-tasting fruit and others bearing sour fruits; it grows well in semi-shade and might be difficult to adapt outside of its cloud-forest home.>>

The Melon Pears (Pepino, S. muricatum, and Tzimbalo, S. caripense) are not very flavorful: Pepino generally resembles melon, though some have reported good potent flavors at a certain stage of ripeness; Tzimbalo is variable, from resembling Pepino to poor, bland or bitter flavors.

Cocona (S. sessiliflorum) has been described as sour, fruity and tomatoey, good in juices, desserts and sauces; other than that vague description, it's hard to find a detailed breakdown of its flavor, or any other consistent description (¿Lemony Tomato?). Naranjilla/Lulo (S. quitoense) is said to have a citrusy sour taste, great in juice. Pseudolulo (S. pseudolulo) is variable in quality, with the best being sweet and similar to Naranjilla. Solanum candidum (South America), S. repandum (South Pacific) and S. lasiocarpum (Asia) are all members of this same clade, usually compared to Naranjilla in culinary qualities.

The Litchi Tomato (S. sisymbriifolium) has somewhat sweet fruit vaguely reminiscent of a seedy less-flavorful raspberry; decent, but some might find the seeds objectionable (and the plant is extremely thorny). I've grown it myself, and though not an all-time favorite, I'd grow it again.

Rarer than the fruity Solanums are the Australian Bush Tomatoes, of which nine species are considered edible (link here). Kutjera (S. centrale) is also known as the Desert Raisin, is said to taste of caramel, with a spicy aftertaste; I couldn't tell if it was fruity or not from the descriptions, but it seems to be used mostly as a spice or in sauces for savory recipes. S. chippendalei and S. diversiflorum both have fruits with a bland, melon-flavored edible rind and a bitter inedible pulp. S. cleistogamum is sometimes seen as synonymous with S. ellipticum in the literature, but the fruits of each type are very different: the former is a contender for the sweetest, fruitiest Solanum (banana-like flavor), the latter is very bitter, though still edible. S. coactiliferum is pounded, squeezed and washed to remove bitter juices, then cooked. Other reportedly edible species are S. esuriale (which has a rubbery texture), S. orbiculatum (which is bitter), and S. gilesii.

Finally, the black sheep of the Solanum genus: Black Nightshade / Garden Huckleberries. Let me preface this section by stating the obvious: though not undisputed, there are many members in this group that are considered poisonous in some circles, even fatally so. As such, I advise that you play it safe: don't forage for these species. If you're interested in eating them, look for reputable seed sources and grow them yourself. Follow instructions, cook them into jam if required by the variety, and don't eat them underripe. Now, on to the fun bits...

There are many edible types in this species cluster, some known by species name, some without botanical ID. S. melanocerasum is generally regarded as the basic Garden Huckleberry; it's larger-fruited, should be picked dead ripe, and should be cooked. Chichiquelite may or may not be another breed in this species, but they can be eaten raw. S. scabrum is grown as a leaf crop in Africa. S. nigrum is black, S. villosum (Otricoli) is orange, and both can be eaten raw or cooked. Sunberry/Wonderberry is a strange little case... Bred by Luther Burbank, he alleged it to be a cross between S. villosum and S. guineense (ultimately named S. x burbankii); other sources dispute this, insisting it to be a type of S. nigrum or S. retroflexum... I'm inclined to believe Mr. Burbank, and so consider it a hybrid. S. x burbankii is fully edible raw (considered superior when dull-ripe instead of shiny-ripe), but it's rather insipid, like the rest of the group; it shines best when cooked into jams and pies, and is said to be exceptional when prepared thusly. Solanum opacum is said to be the sweetest member of the group, and the tastiest when raw; it is green-fruited, and sometimes said to have a slight spicy note.

Having handled the Solanum genus, now we move to the other edible Solanaceous genera...

Capsicum: the Peppers! One of the major solanaceous crops (together with tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant). Five domestic species (C. annuum, C. baccatum, C. chinense, C. frutescens, C. pubescens), many wild species, most if not all are edible and of broadly similar flavor, though the nuances of each cultivar vary, some being sweeter or fruitier (but always used in savory dishes). Piquancy varies from totally heat-free to dangerously spicy and everything in between.

Physalis: the Husk Tomatoes & Ground Cherries. The Tomatillo (P. ixocarpa) is the largest-fruited member of its genus, and has green, yellow and purple varieties; sour and mild when immature (used in Salsa Verde at this stage), and sweeter and more tomato-like as it matures. Cape Gooseberry (P. peruviana) sets the standard for the rest of the genus, juicy with a flavor vaguely reminiscent of Sweet Pineapple (some detect tomato-like flavor, but I've never felt it). Several other Ground Cherries are known from other species and without species ID, but they're broadly similar, not unlike the Cape Gooseberry; that said, they should be grown from reputable seeds, not foraged, as there are toxic species in this genus.

Physaliastrum chamaesarachoides is a Japanese species that resembles a ground cherry, and allegedly has sugary tomato-like flavor. That's all I could find on it, but I'll be growing it later this year, so I'll see firsthand what it's like.

Jaltomata contains several fruity berry-like species, and is considered a sister genus to Solanum. J. procumbens is purple-fruited and mild, not unlike the garden huckleberries. J. tlaxcala is considered one of the best in its genus, green-fruited, sweet and aromatic. <<Edit: J. weberbaueri has one of the largest fruits in the genus.>> Many other species have edible fruits, but the genus as a whole seems poorly-known. I'll be trialling J. tlaxcala, J. herrerae and J. bernardelloana this year.

Wolfberries fall under the genus Lycium, and are also known as Goji Berries. L. barbarum (Crimson Star) is the sweet berry, L. chinense (Sweet Lifeberry) is the leaf vegetable with the pepper-like berry. L. ruthenicum is the Black Goji, with the medicinal-tasting fruit. Some other species in the genus (such as L. pallidum) are considered edible, but the first three are the major players in horticulture.

And for now, that is all I could find on edible Solanaceous crops.

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Tropical Fruit Discussion / Tree ID... ¿Blepharocalyx salicifolius?
« on: August 26, 2018, 12:11:59 PM »
Hi all. I had placed an order with Vitor in Brazil last year to get, among other things, Blepharocalyx salicifolius. Most arrived sprouted but quite weak (due to the long journey), but it hadn't occurred to me to bag them back then, and I lost them. Eventually, though, a proper little seedling sprouted in their pot, and I was confident that it was the same species... The cotyledons had a similar shape to the seeds I had seen in their bag. Now, however, I'm not so sure. I don't have any experience with this species, can anyone tell me if this sapling really is Blepharocalyx salicifolius?



While I'm at it, does anyone have any experience with this species? I was told the leaves were great as a tea, and that the little cherries were good, but not much detail.

8
Tropical Fruit Discussion / Cerrado Cashew (Anacardium humile)
« on: August 06, 2018, 12:24:41 PM »
Anyone else growing these? I got seeds from Luc and they all sprouted successfully and look pretty healthy. But here's the thing... I've been afraid to water them after the last one sprouted. I've been waiting for them to show signs of drought stress, their soil is bone dry right now, and they still won't wilt. The also don't seem to be growing rapidly after their initial burst (which might be because of the lack of water). I want to water them, I'm used to saturating the soil when I water my plants, but I really don't want to kill them. Do they loose their sensitivity to water at some point or is it a lifelong issue?

Here's my plants so far, in the shade of my outdoor garage (to prevent them from getting rained on):




These were taken a couple of weeks ago, but they're pretty much the same right now, except for the little one, which has caught up with the rest.

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Well, I think I finally cracked. I went too deep, and now I mostly have yams on the brain. But that's okay... I'll never go hungry with a good yam collection.  ;)

Having read the 6 documents of "Tropical Yams and their Potential", as well as other sources, I've come up with a list of yams that I'm looking to collect, multiply and disseminate to other growers (these are marked with a checkmark: ✓). I've also listed a couple of other yams that are deemed edible by the literature, but that don't strongly catch my attention (also marked with a checkmark anyway: ✓), have been outright rejected (these are marked with an X), or have poorly-known qualities regarding their edibility (asterism: ⁂ ).

The Big 5 (or 8, depending on how you segregate the species): ✓
1 - D. rotundata (White Guinea Yam) + D. cayennensis (Yellow Guinea Yam)
2 - D. alata (Greater / Winged Yam) + D. purpurea (Ube / Purple Yam)
3 - D. bulbifera (Asian Air Potato) + D. latifolia (African Air Potato)
4 - D. esculenta (Lesser / Potato Yam)
5 - D. trifida (Cushcush / Mapuey Yam)

The Lesser 5:
1 - D. pentaphylla (Five-leaf Yam) - ✓
2 - D. transversa (Australian / Pencil Yam) - ✓
3 - D. nummularia (Pacific Yam) - ✓
4 - D. dumetorum (Trifoliate Yam) - ¿✓?
5 - D. hispida (Intoxicating Yam; also known as D. reticulata) - X

The Temperate 3: ✓
1 - D. polystachya (Nagaimo / Chinese Yam; also known as D. oppositifolia & D. batatas)
2 - D. japonica (Japanese Yam)
3 - D. hamiltonii (¿Nameless? I'd just call it Hamilton's Yam)

The Leftovers? (not a great name, but  don't know what else to call 'em; it doesn't mean they're of bad quality):
1 - ¿D. pseudo-tomentosa? (¿Nameless?) - ✓
2 - D. remotiflora ("Camote de Cerro" / Mexican Mountain Yam) - ✓
3 - D. dodecaneura (Ornamental Yam) - ✓
4 - D. orangeana (¿Madagascar Yam?) - ⁂
5 - D. brachybotrya ("Papa Cimarrona" / "Jaboncillo") - X
6 - D. humifusa ("Huanqui") - X
7 - D. deltoidea (¿Nameless?) - X
8 - D. rupicola (¿Elephant's Foot?) - ⁂
9 - D. altissima (Dunguey) - ⁂
10 - Rajania cordata ("Ñame Gulembo") - ¿X?

I'm currently growing D. rotundata, alata, purpurea, bulbifera, trifida, and polystachya. I have some possible sources to check out for D. esculenta, japonica, latifolia and additional strains of bulbifera. D. cayennensis eludes me, but though I'm sure it's here in Puerto Rico, it's not common nor easy to find (if anyone has some, send 'em my way).

I recently received a mystery yam in the mail from eBay, but it arrived so thoroughly dried out that I don't expect it to survive (though the vendor assures me that it should or they'd reimburse me, which I declined); nevertheless, I planted it anyway and hope against hope that I'll get something out of it. It was sold as a D. pentaphylla, but the vine photos reminded me of alata, and the bulbil photos resembled bulbifera. The vendor confirmed it was not pentaphylla, but I bought it anyway 'cause it was cheap and I felt like trying it out. At any rate, the vendor confirmed that it was fully edible, bulbils-and-all, so I considered it valuable anyway. If it survives, I hope to be able to deduce the species from the anatomy.

I have some D. hamiltonii seeds coming in the mail, as well as some true pentaphylla bulbils. When asked about the pentaphylla bulbils (as opposed to the tuber), the vendor said they don't eat them, but they never explicitly confirmed that they were toxic. I'd really like to know if they're edible, but since there are toxic pentaphylla strains out there, I'm reluctant to try them; if I could find a lab able and willing to analyze a cooked sample, I could lay that doubt to rest. The tuber was confirmed to be edible steamed.

There's another mystery yam coming in the mail, sold as D. pseudo-tomentosa. I couldn't find anything in the literature about this species being edible (or toxic), only that it's endangered. The photos of the yam may have vaguely resembled D. esculenta, but I may be reaching with that conclusion. Truth be told, I'd love for it to be genuine D. pseudo-tomentosa, to add another good species to the germplasm. Link here.

D. transversa is very high on my wish list (specifically the large-tubered bulbil-bearing strain), but no luck finding it yet. No idea where to find D. nummularia (which is said to closely resemble rotundata), but I also consider it important as a supposedly good-quality species. Interestingly, one document claimed that some nummularia cultivars were introduced to Puerto Rico; also, there seems to be some confusion in the literature whether to consider the cultivar "Wael" as a type of transversa or of nummularia.

I don't object to D. dumetorum if I can obtain it, but I'm not really looking for this one. The best strains still seem like poor quality yams and they have to be eaten quickly after harvesting or they turn hard (even after cooking) and difficult to peel (as if their strange shape didn't already make that a challenge). The worst strains are downright toxic, which leads me to its close relative... I don't even know how D. hispida made it into the original documents. I don't even care that they have in-fact been eaten before (and they're probably still eaten to this day), even the best strains are dangerously toxic and require jumping through hoops to detoxify and turn them edible, and we all know how I feel about that... Famine food. So I just mentioned it for completion's sake, but I don't consider that species edible, nor am I interested in it in the slightest.

D. remotiflora is an edible wild mexican yam that barely even has a presence in the literature. If it weren't for a single isolated YouTube video (link here) showing its harvest, I wouldn't even know this species was edible. It seems to bear some resemblance to D. polystachya, which is also referred to as "Camote de Cerro" in Mexico. As it seems to be rare and difficult to find, with few traits to explicitly recommend it, I won't go out of my way looking for it. But if someone out there has some and is willing to share, I'd be very grateful nonetheless.

D. dodecaneura doesn't seem like an especially important species, but it is listed in several sources as being edible raw or cooked with an almond-like flavor; it's also a beautiful ornamental. I'm kinda interested in it. A few links: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3

D. orangeana is Madagascar's only edible native Dioscorea, and is a recent discovery. I've yet to find an online source that knows anything about it, or if it's even conventionally edible (as opposed to a hispida-like famine food). Unless it's explicitly confirmed as conventionally edible, I'm not too interested in it (and even then, it's like remotiflora, where it's so rare I'm not sure it's worth going out of my way for it).

I saw brachybotrya, humifusa, deltoidea and rupicola on a YouTube video (link here) where a guy was trying to germinate them from seed (along with other rare supposedly edible species... like reticulata/hispida). When checked online, the Chilean brachybotrya & humifusa turned out to be toxic and bitter (¿saponins?), and probably require special preparation, so I'm not interested in either as a crop. Deltoidea from Asia was also said to be bitter but edible in PFAF, though the article (link here) urged caution, and mentioned that it's boiled with wood ashes to remove bitterness. It doesn't seem like a good prospect either, so I'm not interested. Regarding rupicola, I could barely find anything about it online, but one seed seller claims it to be edible (link here). I couldn't see the details because when I clicked the link it failed to open for me. Maybe the link will work for one of you and you can post the screenshot. At any rate, I'll be interested if it turns out to be conventionally edible, but as a desert plant I doubt it'd be particularly prolific as a crop, so I probably wouldn't go out of my way for it anyway.

Edit: Another species:
D. altissima was present in another seed sowing video. There's not much in the literature about it, but it's apparently wild harvested and occasionally home grown for its edible tubers in parts of its native range in South America; it's also present in Puerto Rico. A photo search revealed a very thorny stem and small aerial bulbils. I wouldn't grow it from anything other than seeds, for fear that it might carry the same virus as R. cordata, but since there's no details available on preparation & toxicity level (¿Conventionally edible? ¿Detoxification necessary?), I'm not too interested in trying it... Maybe a little. Info link here.

And finally, Rajania cordata, our very own Ñame Gulembo. It's a close relative of Dioscorea. I don't recall having tasted this one (though I might be mistaken). I'll have to ask around for am account of its flavor, but my grandmother mentions that it is fibrous. It grows wild in the mountains of Puerto Rico and is wild-harvested here. So why have I rejected it? Because it is a carrier of a virus that is a very nasty disease of D. trifida (and also affects other species, to varying degrees). That's a big risk for a crop that's probably not very decent (though it requires no special preparation). Why the question marks? Well, I've yet to find out if the seeds carry the disease. If they don't, I wouldn't mind trying my hand at this species. But first I need assurance that I'm not endangering my other yams before I'd be willing to even consider it.

***

So this is a taste of what I wish to achieve. There's a lot of edible yam roots out there, and I wanna grow as many as I can, especially the better types, and help get them to other interested growers. It seems absurd to me that something as widespread, productive and gastronomically wholesome as the air potato was so hard for me to find in the first place. And it seems even weirder that other good yams (which don't have the same legal issues) seem even harder to find. So let's get a good germplasm collection up and running to get these species into the hands of other hobbyists. The more people join our exchange network, the better.

10
Tropical Vegetables and Other Edibles / Tacca leontopetaloides
« on: June 28, 2018, 11:08:49 PM »
This one's been on the edge of my radar for years, but I've never given it a fair chance 'cause there's so little information available on it, and what is available makes it sound like a famine food (of the poor quality type). It's toxic in its raw form, but that's true of a lot of staple foods, from yams to taro and many more. These more-common species have their toxins readily dealt-with by a simple boiling session, which is the standard cooking method of starch roots anyway. Indeed, that is the standard by which I measure starch roots: if they're edible after merely peeling and boiling them (to the exclusion of other processing steps), then they're a good garden crop, but if they require jumping through hoops to get rid of any toxins, then they're no better than a famine food (like a lot of wild yams), or at least not ideal for home processing (I view bitter cassava this way).

Well I've looked high and low for information on this species, but the only explicit references to its edible nature mention starch extraction & washing, or soaking the root (plus other steps) to use it. Not a single source explicitly confirms nor rejects the idea of simply boiling the root to eat it, like a normal vegetable. Does anyone here have any experience with it as a crop (not an ornamental)? Can anyone confirm whether or not it can be eaten like a normal root veggie (boiled, not heavily processed)? I'm really keen to try this one out, but I don't wanna waste my time with something that I can't eat as a proper vegetable.

For the record, I may as well ask... Can Maranta arrowroot be used as a vegetable, or is it only useful as an extracted starch?

11
Is any forum member growing this species? Maybe in Australia? From what I've read, there's a rainforest type that lacks bulbils, and a northern variant that produces bulbils and has a larger in-ground tuber. Naturally, I'm gravitating towards the latter. So does anyone here have any experience with them? What are they like?

12
Hi all. I'm on a root crop kick at the moment, and am now working my way through the leguminous ones. I'm not looking for every obscure species just yet, but there are a few hard-to-find ones that I'd like to get my hands on now. I'm currently growing Winged Bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus), and I have a source for American Groundnuts (Apios Americana). As for what I want...

I'm looking for seeds of the African Yam Bean (Sphenostylis stenocarpa). Similar to Pachyrhizus, it has crunchy tubers, but unlike its relatives, it allegedly has edible leaves and seeds. It's apparently a variable species, with different landraces having different traits in their roots and seeds; I'd like to obtain several, if possible. Link: https://www.nap.edu/read/11763/chapter/20#328

I have Jícama seeds (Pachyrhizus erosus) so I'm not looking for it, but I am looking for two relatives: Ahipa (P. ahipa) and Goitenyo (P. tuberosus). Ahipa appeals to me for its short non-vining growth, and the fact that it's adaptable. Like Jícama, it has toxic seeds and leaves (Rotenone). Goitenyo appeals even more to me, and is a higher priority (as well as seeming harder to find) because like Sphenostylis, it allegedly has edible leaves and seeds.

If anyone has any of these three, I'd like to buy them. And better yet, if they have direct experience with them and can confirm the edibility of seeds & foliage of Sphenostylis and Goitenyo, that would be appreciated.

13
Hi all, I'm writing up this thread to update y'all on the story so far with my non-solanaceous potatoes. First, the Potato Mint (P. rotundifolius):

The plant was vigorous almost from the start. It arrived early in the year as a tall and kinda weak-looking fully-rooted cutting from a Florida eBay vendor, and I planted it in one of those big plastic tubs with holes drilled in the bottom. I also planted a Guinea Yam (Dioscorea rotundata) in the same tub.

A week after planting and the potato mint already had plenty of strong growth. A month after planting, and it had already taken over the entire tub's surface area with foliage, and some branches were bending toward the soil and taking root. A few weeks later, and it was spilling out of the tub and onto the surrounding ground, so I decided to give it a drastic pruning, leaving behind a few stumps... In hindsight, that was probably a poor decision as the growth of new foliage would probably take vital energy and nutrients away from tuber growth. Lesson learned. I threw some tomato seeds onto the newly-exposed soil surface and forgot about them.

A few weeks afterwards, and the growth was carpeting the tub again, and the pruned stems I had thrown on the ground had taken root and started growing on their own (I left them there and they keep growing to this day). The surviving tomato plants grew tall between the potatoes, and soon both species started flowering simultaneously. A few weeks afterwards, with the tomatoes producing and the potatoes' flower spikes starting to fade (which means harvest time), I pulled up one of the potato plants and dug up the tubers.

Given the various less-than-ideal circumstances (container-growing, competing plants, partial shade, no fertilizer, impromptu heavy-pruning) the crop was small (and composed of mainly smaller tubers), but I'm confident it would've been a good crop under better circumstances. The biggest (normal-sized?) ones were about the size of a small potato, but many were smaller (like Lerén tubers), and a score of them were tiny (these I saved for re-planting). Even with a suspected smaller crop, I actually got enough potatoes out of that one mistreated plant to have a full plate of mashed potatoes. I pulled the remaining plants out the next week and had them fried.

The tubers were amazingly easy to process, so that even pinky-sized tubers were quickly dealt with and used. I put on a pair of gloves, and scratched the skin off under running water quickly during washing off the dirt. In fact, while the nails may have slightly sped up the process, it probably wasn't necessary, as the skin rubbed off with the soft part of the fingertips, it was that tender!

The tubers were white, but many had large areas of green under the skin, and a few had purple areas (all from the same plant). I was unconcerned with toxicity as I'm pretty sure the entire plant is technically edible and non-toxic. After boiling like normal potatoes, I tasted a few whole and mashed the rest. The taste was really very close to true potatoes, with a slight vegetal tone my family likened to Artocarpus camansi seeds (the very mild, immature ones, not the strongly-flavored ripe ones), but milder still. No purple remained after boiling and there was no bitterness or any discernible difference between the green and white areas. I should also point out that some sources mention a sweetness to the taste... I detected no such sweetness (nor any minty/peppery/spicy taste), it was just potatoey.

The second batch of tubers was prepared for frying. Some were left skin-on (I recommend it, though it requires delicate washing), many were sliced lengthwise, a few sliced into chip shape, and a few smaller ones were fried intact. Crispy outside, soft inside (even the chips were a bit flexible), and the flavor was like a combination of homemade french fries and fried eggplant (the good types; no bitterness). They were very good, and doubtless would've been excellent seasoned and roasted like wedge potatoes.

The verdict: unknown prospects as a commercial root crop (especially given how easily the skin rubs off), but excellent for the home vegetable plot. Vigorous and nearly care-free, probably productive (especially with good care and space, not like my neglect), easily propagated, easily processed, and of good taste. I highly recommend it for any warm-weather vegetable garden (no idea if it has a short enough growing season for cooler regions).

***

Now the Edible Air Potato (D. bulbifera):

I received 7 bulbils through the combined efforts of Chandramohan and Roy. They were quick to sprout through the dirt, the last of them a few weeks after planting. Each bulbil sprouted several vines, and would continue sprouting more throughout the growing season. Alas, my crime of neglect was worse with these, and I'm probably not witnessing full production (even though it still seems like a vigorous producer). For my current lack of space, I transplanted every single one of those plants (together with a Chinese Yam, D. polystachya) into a single tub that was probably only big enough (but not ideal) for just two plants; one trellis shared between them.

Despite the circumstances, they also grew vigorously (and twined together), and all seven plants are alive and well. Months passed without a single bulbil (it's not supposed to bear until close to the end of the growing season anyway). Then one day I saw a small bulbil, and it remained alone, increasing in size until almost reaching its maximum (small potato, but bigger than the P. Mint) long before any other bulbils showed up. When others showed up, it was an almost explosive profusion of bulbils, with a rough count of approximately 47 (which I'm fairly sure fell short of the true number even then; by now, many more still have showed up).

All was well and good, to a point, but there's an important thing to mention about this plant: it seems far more susceptible to animal pests than any other yam I've grown. Nothing of note has ever touched any of my other yam vines. Meanwhile, I've seen bulbifera leaves eaten by crickets, cockroaches and snails (and possibly a grasshopper and a katydid, but I didn't see them chewing). And the worst part: the snails ruin the bulbils themselves! I saw one with a gaping hole that looked like a bird pecked into it, thinking it was a fruit. For a while, that's exactly what I thought. But one night I decided to check on the plants at midnight and I started seeing the different pests in action. A week later, I saw the snail on the bulbil, and a second one on another one, rasping holes right through them. Suffice it to say that I've been hunting snails often since then, and crushing every one I find. But the damage was done: in a blind panic, I harvested the big one for fear that a snail would get to it first.

Strictly speaking, I'm not certain that you're not supposed to harvest them, but I was under the impression that you're meant to leave them on the plant until they drop off naturally. A friend (who has harvested alata bulbils) told me that if you pick them before their time, the flesh would be green, and they'd be inedible. Well wouldn't you know, when I went to cook the big one, it was green all the way through. Peeled so that I couldn't plant it, and seemingly too green to be edible, I had to throw it out. Crushing disappointment after all that waiting. Oh well, I've waited this long, I can wait longer for the other bulbils to ripen. I plucked a few small ones from a drying vine to propagate them, but the few big ones I've seen look like they have a few months to go before they drop. I'm hoping the little ones grow quickly, so I can get a half decent crop when it's time to taste them. I truly have high hopes for this plant, and will give my usual play-by-play analysis when I taste them (probably some time next year).

***

Photo Gallery:

The African Potato / Potato Mint:




Same, boiled, mashed and fried:




The Air Potato:




Snail damage:




The big one:


14
Tropical Fruit Discussion / Edible Conifers and other Gymnosperms
« on: August 11, 2017, 03:31:15 AM »
Hi all. I was checking out a lot of info about the Conifer family tree, and found that a surprising number of species produced food, both in temperate regions and in the tropics. Moreover, this topic seemed somewhat neglected, so I decided to make this thread to discuss it. Here we go...


Nuts:

Seemingly the most well-known coniferous food, even this category has some poorly-known species.

Pines - Different species are harvested in different regions, with approximately 17 species bearing large, worthwhile nuts. Few of them are commercially harvested, but they include the following:

Three Eurasian species, the Stone Pine (Pinus pinea), Korean Pine (P. koraiensis), and Chilgoza Pine (P. gerardiana), and three species of Pinyon Pines (P. edulis, P. monophylla, P. cembroides). Another Pinyon bears the largest nuts in the genus (2-3 cm long), P. maximartinezii, not currently harvested on a commercial basis due to its rarity (it's locally harvested, though). The Armand or Chinese White Pine (P. armandii) is to be avoided, as it is the source of Pine Mouth Syndrome.

Araucariads - A family with three surviving genera, Araucaria, Agathis and Wollemia. Everything I found indicated that most - if not every - species in this family is likely to have edible seeds (at least, in the sense that they are non-toxic and digestible). That said, several bear seeds too small to be worthwhile, and of the remainder, most are dioecious, take a long time to reach seed-bearing age and/or are inconsistent bearers (a good crop one year followed by several poor crops, or even empty years).

Wollemia's seeds are small, not really much of a nut. Of the genus Agathis, I've only seen one species explicitly referred to as edible: Agathis montana, having been consumed by the natives of New Caledonia. The source of this claim seems to have disappeared from the net, as I haven't been able to find the website again since last I saw it a few years ago. I did keep a highly modified screenshot of the relevant paragraph for reference purposes, so I'll post it here:



The genus Araucaria has two lineages, one with the single section Eutacta, and another with the three sections Araucaria, Bunya and Intermedia. I suspect most of Eutacta to bear edible seeds, but the only one I could explicitly confirm is Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii). The other lineage bears three well-known starchy nuts in two sections: Bunya Nut (A. bidwillii, sect. Bunya; monoecious), and Monkey Puzzle & Paraná Pine (A. araucana & A. angustifolia respectively, sect. Araucaria; both dioecious). Because the species in the third section (Intermedia), A. hunsteinii, is so closely related, I expected to find that it would make a good crop (with the advantage of being monoecious). No such explicit confirmation turned up in my searches, but I did find that the dimensions of the cone and the nuts were similar to its relatives, being 10x6 inches and 1.5 inches respectively ( http://conifersociety.org/conifers/conifer/araucaria/hunsteinii/ ). Because of this, I would consider A. hunsteinii a likely strong candidate for tropical production of Araucaria Nuts.

Nutmeg Yews - Not closely related to the true Yews, despite the name, Torreya fargesii 's seed can be pressed for oil, and the seeds of T. nucifera, T. californica and T. grandis are edible as nuts.


Fruits:

Species where the cone scales develop into soft, sweet fruit-like tissue.

Yews - Taxus spp. As I've stated in another thread, a mild-flavored edible treat on a lethally toxic tree. Don't try it, not worth it. Nothing to see here, move along.

Strawberry Pine (Microcachrys tetragona) - A small dioecious creeping conifer from Tasmania with strawberry or raspberry-like fruit.

New Zealand Conifer Berries - Collected and consumed by the Maori, sometimes in quantity. The species include Kahikatea (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides), Rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum), Tōtara (Podocarpus totara), Mataī (Prumnopitys taxifolia) and Miro (P. ferruginea).

Chilean Plum Yew (Prumnopitys andina) - Bears tasty grape-like fruit.

Podocarpus spp. - Despite their online reputation, only a few species have toxic berries; most have edible berries to varying degrees (It should be noted that the pollen is cytotoxic, and produces symptoms resembling those of chemotherapy if inhaled in quantity over time). Green Deane suggests that reports of toxicity in Podocarpus macrophyllus come from eating too many berries without removing the core (which is stem matter, likely to be somewhat toxic even if the pulp isn't) ( http://www.eattheweeds.com/podocarpus-your-own-hedge-fund-2/ ). Other species I could confirm as edible (and without the reports of toxicity that P. macrophyllus has) include P. elatus, P. drouynianus, P. spinulosus and P. costalis.

California Juniper (Juniperus californica) - One of the few Juniper berries that can be eaten in their raw state, as they are sweeter, less resinous and not bitter. Juniper fruit used as a spice come from J. communis, J. phoenicea, and possibly J. deppeana and J. drupacea.


Fruit-Nut Combos:

As the title suggests, these are fleshy/fruity-coned species whose seeds can also be consumed as nuts.

Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonii) - While most subspecies are poorly-flavored, several bear agreeable fruit described as "A plum dipped in pine sap". http://earthadvocatesresearchfarm.com/2013/14available-4.html

Podocarpus dispermus - Unlike most of its relatives, even the seed of this species is reportedly edible, when roasted. http://www.wettropics.gov.au/rainforest_explorer/Resources/Documents/factsheets/bushTuckerOfTheWetTropics.pdf

Afrocarpus falcatus & A. gracilior - Insipid to astringent pulp with a resinous nut. Seemingly not the best-tasting edible, but I'd try it. http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1073211/


Tips and Needle Teas:

These are species whose needles can be harvested to make tea. Fresh young growing tips can be harvested and consumed as-is (a vegetable of sorts), or used for tea, syrup and other confections. Included in this category are species from the genera Pinus (though Red Pine is alleged to be toxic in some sources; http://survivaltek.com/?p=3989 ), Picea, Abies, Tsuga and Pseudotsuga.

Edit: The pollen of some Pinus species is also edible raw, and can be used as flour. Some species have bitter-tasting pollen, others have a neutral flavor. The male cones that produce said pollen are also edible when boiled. ( http://www.eattheweeds.com/pines-not-just-for-breakfast-anymore-2/ )

Note: Do not confuse coniferous Hemlock (Tsuga) with Poison Hemlock (Conium, Cicuta, Oenanthe crocata). Perhaps it should go without saying, but I'm saying it anyway. Stay safe, and don't sample wild plants lightly.


Other Gymnosperms:

Ginkgo is often consumed as a nut in Asia, but care should be taken not to overindulge, due to the presence of Ginkgotoxin.

Cycads - No. No matter what you've heard, no species of cycad is edible. Several have been used historically as food, but the cost is neurological damage. Every species in the order has a symbiotic relationship with Cyanobacteria that produce BMAA toxin, absorbed by the plant and concentrated (but not limited) in the seeds. Processing the starch (even from the stem) doesn't get rid of all the toxin. Play it safe... If you want Sago, look for the true Sago Palm (Metroxylon sagu), not a cycad.

Ephedra - Often used medicinally (tread cautiously, there are side effects). The fruit of some species are regarded as edible, tasting mildly sweet.

Gnetum - I would regard this as the only truly edible non-coniferous gymnosperm. Several species in the genus are edible, with G. gnemom bearing edible nuts, and G. africanum having edible nuts, leaves and even roots.


And that is all I could find on the matter of edible gymnosperms.

15
Hi all. I already have Plectranthus rotundifolius in my possession. I'm looking for P. esculentus (rather hard to find), and P. edulis (from Ethiopia; practically impossible to find). From what I can tell, both have long tubers, in contrast with P. rotundifolius 's compact tubers. Is there anyone here able and willing to sell me rooted cuttings from either of these two species?

While I'm asking, how do you prepare the tubers for cooking? They seem small... ¿are they peeled, or is their skin tender? ¿What about for boiling? ¿Or frying?

16
Tropical Vegetables and Other Edibles / Ensete ventricosum
« on: July 26, 2017, 11:33:56 PM »
Regarding Ensete ventricosum... ¿Are all (or most) of them productive as food, or are the ones grown in Ethiopia superior for the purpose? (¿Can I buy seeds of any type and have a top quality food Ensete?) If only the select types, ¿where can one obtain seeds of those types? I ask because it's impossible (or nearly so) to find E. ventricosum seed online of types explicitly intended for food. Most of the seed is sold for ornamental purposes, and even the "generic type" seeds of the species are only mentioned as an edible crop in passing as trivia (with no strong assertion as to whether the type offered is productive or of good quality). I'm not really asking if you can eat any E. ventricosum, I'm asking if all are of good quality and/or productive (and if not, where to find such good types).

As a tangent, ¿could you use banana corms and pseudostems similarly?

17
Hello everyone. I'm currently making efforts to acquire land, so I can finally start my farm. The question I'm asking here is, how to go about it? (starting it, not acquiring it). First, some background information:

I've been out of college for under a year now. I've considered other options (and I haven't fully rejected some of them), but other than biology, agriculture is my passion, so this farm is intended to be my main (and likely only) source of income. Therefore, it will be a commercial farm (not a hobby farm), requiring commercial output of product. That said, I don't need huge quantities of output, just enough to gain my livelihood (like a small farm, I guess you could say). As a matter of personal preference, I will not be using industrial techniques, and though I hope to acquire a large plot of land, I intend to operate it on small farm principles (perhaps even as a cooperative, eventually). In fact, I intend to manage it as a permaculture farm (you could say my ulterior motive is for the idea to catch on with other local farmers, proving you can feed the world without industrial techniques; big is not synonymous with industrial).

There's lots of information on permaculture out there, but most of it seems directed at subsistence farmers and homesteaders (both of whom mostly grow it to eat it themselves; I hope to fill most of my diet from my farm, but I also mainly want it as a reasonably strong source of income, by small-farm standards). There's also many permaculture farms that derive most of their income from on-farm teaching (something I don't wanna do; I don't mind teaching, but I wanna be proof-of-concept that the ideas work commercially, by deriving my income from actual product, as most farmers do). How does one commercialize permaculture? And do so in a way that doesn't appear "green" (with hidden eco-unfriendly shortcomings), but actually is "green" (with a neutral-to-positive environmental impact)? There's very little information on commercial applications for permaculture (except for isolated techniques), so I had to piece together the information myself.

Ultimately (Aquaponics & Microponics not withstanding), I found 4 promising candidates for a commercial farm (and one candidate that has left me as confused as ever):
+ Biointensive
+ No Dig
+ SALT (Sloping Agricultural Land Technology)
+ Inga Alley Cropping
? ? ? Food Forest

Side-note: My main interest is in tree crops, but I intend to get established with (and continue pursuing) annual crops as well. I also consider valuable the techniques of Companion Planting, Composting and Terra Preta Nova (http://honeybees-by-the-sea.com/terrapreta.htm) (http://honeybees-by-the-sea.com/terrapreta/terrapretanova.pdf).

Biointensive farming consists of double digging the raised annual crop beds and applying compost (and whatever organic fertilizer the local soil requires for its deficiencies). Allegedly, the resulting soil texture allows greater water retention and nutrient uptake by the crops, which can be spaced closer together without competing, covering the soil (retaining further moisture and preventing weed germination). Companion planting is used for best effect, and a minimum bed width of 3 feet (ideally 4 to 5; length is 10 to 20) ensures a better microclimate for the crops. I've seen several sources claim excellent results with this technique (both in yields and in fertilizer & water use reduction). I've also read a few that had terrible results, claiming explosive weed germination, poor water retention and soil texture degradation (crust-like water-impervious top layer, etc.). Makes me wonder if the  bad results come from improper preparation/implementation, inadequate land (perhaps it doesn't work everywhere?), or flaws inherent to the technique itself (but then why do some have great success?). My main concerns are the double digging's disturbance of soil microbiota and properties (it almost sounds like a poor-man's tilling, but deeper), as well as the seeming back-breaking labor it seems to entail (though proponents insist it is easy, with the right technique). Plus, if you're following the system to the letter, the double-digging must be repeated periodically (it's not "one and done", though it's said to get easier in subsequent digs).

Some Biointensive Links:
* http://www.growbiointensive.org/grow_main.html
* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPeAvYrfKkU (session one) =>  https://www.youtube.com/user/JohnJeavonsGrowBio/videos (the remaining sessions)
* https://www.villagevolunteers.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Biointensive-Farming-Training-Manual.pdf
* http://growbiointensive.org/ (extra resources)

No dig (a variation on no-till?) is where you smother and kill the local weeds and build the soil up from that layer, over time, with generous applications of compost and mulch. I've read of several farms failing with no-till, but all evidence indicates improper management (often commented on in detail by other permaculturists). With proper management, and the right combination of techniques, results tend to be as impressive as those claimed by the Biointensive farmers (in yields and fertilizer & water-use reduction). Unlike conventional biointensive techniques, it is said that the soil structure remains healthy (and improves over time, with worm-based "tilling" and increasing layers of organic matter), and the beneficial soil biota remains intact. This one appeals to me for soil health and minimizing work (at least, digging-based work). I wonder about combining it with Biointensive, but I'm not sure it would work; even if I double-dig only once, it kinda defeats the purpose of no-till. And if I apply biointensive plant spacing to no-till, yields might drop (the close spacing is said to work because of the changes made to the soil).

Some No-dig links:
* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HATC3rG6NbQ
* http://www.backyardecosystem.com/organic-gardening/stop-killing-your-soil-debunking-double-digging/
* http://www.rootsimple.com/2011/04/till-vs-no-till/
* https://craftsmanship.net/drought-fighters/

SALT was primarily designed as a solution to slope-farming and soil erosion, but I think it seems useful for flat lands too. It's basically Alley Cropping between leguminous trees. The trees provide (with periodic pruning) organic matter for the alleys, and they help prevent erosion. I particularly like the versatility of the system, as it was designed with annual crops, perennial crops and fruit trees in mind (though there may be size limits), and even has provisions for Fodder Crops (not sure if grazed in-situ, which I would prefer) and Timber as well.

SALT Link:
* https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/echocommunity.site-ym.com/resource/collection/27A14B94-EFE8-4D8A-BB83-36A61F414E3B/TN_72_Sloping_Agricultural_Land_Technology--SALT.pdf

Inga Alley Cropping almost seems like a flat-land version of SALT, and like SALT the results have been overwhelmingly positive. That said, it has it's pros and cons. On the one hand, the developer of this system tested out many leguminous tree species before settling on Inga, considering the others as inferior for the purposes of the system (including some used in SALT, which raises some questions for me as to which is superior). On the other hand, it's not as versatile, being good for growing annuals and some perennials, but not tree crops. Also, shade is a big part of the functionality of this system; after the harvest the canopy is allowed to close again, before chopping it again the following year. This makes me wonder: how long is the growing season? Would I be unable to grow sun-lovers (most crops) after the first harvest? That is the detail that worries me (and is one that is not mentioned for SALT). On the plus side, yields (of corn, at least) were considered far superior with fewer plants than when conventionally-planted.

Links for Inga Alley Cropping:
* http://www.ingafoundation.org/the-inga-tree/
* http://funavid.com/home/what-is-inga-alley-cropping/
* http://www.rainforestsaver.org/step-step-guide-inga-alley-cropping
* http://www.rainforestsaver.org/advice-for-farmers
* http://www.rainforestsaver.org/general-considerations

The final technique (of interest to me as an alternative for the Tree Crops) is the Food Forest. On the one hand, I've found that many of the layered representations of it available on the internet are too good to be true. You can't have a dense planting of trees and an understory of sun-loving crops at the same time. However, modified in more open-woodland style (with an open canopy), a sunny understory is more feasible (I think this technique is done at Las Cañadas). And even if the "understory" is eliminated (save for the shade crops), You might still get a good planting of tree crops. The question is, how is it done? What's the pattern for the trees, and the spacing? How is it different from a mixed orchard planting or the Tree Crop version of SALT? This is one permaculture concept whose techniques seem poorly explored in the online literature. A similar concept (a fodder forest?) is referred to online as Silvopasture, for livestock.

Food Forest relevant links:
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/fukuokas-food-forest
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/perennial-farming-systems-organic-agriculture-edible-permaculture-eric-toensmeier-large-scale-farmland.html
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/maximizing-omega-level-diversity
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/all-nitrogen-fixers-are-not-created-equal
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/coppiced-nitrogen-fixing-firewood-species-of-the-world
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/livestock-integration-reducing-labor-and-fossil-fuel-inputs
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/intensive-silvopasture-a-win-win-for-carbon-and-yield
* http://www.bosquedeniebla.com.mx/boscom.htm
* http://www.perennialsolutions.org/legume-trees-with-pods-edible-to-livestock
* http://www.bosquedeniebla.com.mx/hacagrfor.htm

And here is my question, the advice I seek: What combination of techniques should I use? Naturally, any technique involving trees is going to take a long time to develop, so while the trees are growing, I'm going to have to grow the annuals and small perennials either Biointensively, or with the No-dig system. Which one do I use? I'm gravitating more to the No-dig, but I'm wondering about incorporating the aforementioned traits of Biointensive into it (one-time double-dig and/or extra-close planting). Or perhaps full Biointensive would be better? Or full No-dig?

And as for the Trees... The Inga system for the annuals, or the SALT system? And the Fruits: SALT, Orchard or Food Forest?

Should I even consider Dairy Goats into my plans? Or perhaps Chickens, or Guineafowl?

I might consider testing all of them, except I still don't know the size or traits of the land I'll acquire (here's hoping for something big). I can afford to experiment with the annuals, but the trees ought to be planned with forethought and a solid, decided plan, set in stone (with the years they require, I can't afford to mess around).

A very serious post for an important time in my life. Shower me with your thoughts, opinions and advice.  ;) ;D 8)

18
Hi all. I went to Walmart with my folks the other day, and found this curious little Yam from Costa Rica being sold alongside the usual D. rotundata. I don't know what to make of them. I brought one home to plant, but I have nothing that would let me reliably identity it. I did several searches for its given name "Ñame Mapues", including variations omitting the "s", with and without a mark ("é"), and with and without quote marks. I turned up the official website for the exact product (http://www.ecrater.com/p/24563903/ame-mapues-rare-variety-by), but it lacked any sort of botanical or horticultural information, save for references to its rarity, good taste and ease of propagation (no botanical name). The only other pages that turned up in the searches were one for a study done in the Dominican Republic (http://conference.ifas.ufl.edu/ifsa/papers/a/a7.doc), which doesn't convince me due to the name difference (Mapuey) coupled with the regional name issues, and it's reference to it being D. cayenensis (which is much bigger than what I saw at the store); also a medicinal herbs website in spanish (http://malinalli-herbolariamedica.blogspot.com/2011/05/cocolmeca-name-barbasco-o-cabeza-de.html?m=1), which makes reference to three species (two of which are toxic, the third being D. trifida). I was under the impression that I was dealing with the Lesser Yam / "Potato Yam" (D. esculenta), but the tuber seems different. Does it look familiar to anyone here? Note: the dark region is a wax coating applied to the tuber:









***

I decided to post it anyway just in case, but while writing this post I did some further searches for D. trifida and Cush-cush Yam, which turned up pictures closely resembling my root, as well as the "Ñame Mapues" name (earlier searches for that name did not turn up those results). So I guess it's likely that I'm dealing with D. trifida. The only way to know for sure is to wait for the leaves to grow in (D. trifida seems to have a unique leaf shape). I'm gonna plant it as soon as I can, and I'll post a pic of whatever pops up. I'll keep y'all posted. Does anyone know the care retirements for D. trifida? Also, is it single-tubered or does it grow multiple (like D. esculenta)?

19
I've looked all over for this one, and it's exceedingly hard to find. Ironically, despite legal issues in several countries, the only ones readily and openly available on the market are the ones meant to be curtailed by the laws: the toxic inedible variants.

I'm looking for true D. bulbifera, not D. alata nor D. batatas/polystachya/opposita. I'm looking to buy one, as I don't have much to trade right now. As they are meant for human consumption, I'm most emphatically NOT looking for an ornamental/toxic variety. From what I've gathered, there are edible types that still have a degree of toxicity (still perfectly edible, but they must be cooked thoroughly) as well as some that have reduced toxicity (presumably requiring less cooking time, and possibly tasting better). The less toxic / more edible it is, the better. I've looked for it on eBay, and the few times I see some that seem edible (usually from Thailand) I find myself doubting a little (due to the low-key descriptions), or wondering if they're the low-quality edible types. Is there anyone here growing it? Anyone able and willing to send me some bulbils for growing?

While I'm asking, how do you prepare it? Peeling, chopping, boiling times, etc.? And is there any particularly important growing/harvesting information to know? Is it like some yams, where unripe tubers could be toxic? (in which case, how can you tell when to harvest?)

20
Tropical Vegetables and Other Edibles / Landrace Gardening
« on: March 27, 2017, 10:39:00 PM »
I read a bunch of articles on this topic some time ago. Apparently, it involves not maintaining strict and inbred lines and cultivars, but rather maintaining a genetically diverse blend from a given species across generations (letting them mix freely). Over time, the plants should adapt well to your tastes and your growing conditions, while staying diverse and non-homogeneous. There's selection involved, but unlike line-breeding and inbreeding, you're not looking for a hyper-homogeneous population. Rather than strongly selecting in favor of specific traits, it looks more like a moderate selection pressure against overtly negative traits. Positive traits are selected for, but neutral ones aren't selected against just for being un-ideal. Poorly growing plants are eliminated, and poorly-flavored produce is not re-planted. Positive types are favored, but not isolated (the difference from line-breeding). So it's like selective breeding, but without isolating the result ('cause new genetic material could improve it further, and maintain its adaptability and health).

Here's the link to the collection of articles: http://www.motherearthnews.com/search?tags=%22landrace%20gardening%22

It sounds like a good way to grow strong, vigorous, tasty produce. Basically, mix it all, let genetics take over, then pick a variety from the best. The author seems to get great results with it.

21
I'm growing Lerene now, and I've found conflicting information. One source claims it prefers shade, another that it grows well in sun. Anyone else have experience with it? Perhaps it produces well in both?

These are my plants, in bright shade:


I got to taste the tubers when I received these roots. They were very small, but I was told they were mostly immature. The skin has to be peeled whether before or after cooking (and it's obscenely tedious when they're small). I tried to eat a couple with the skin, but found it inedibly tough. The rest had a wonderful water chestnut texture, and a corn-like taste.

22
Tropical Fruit Discussion / Absorbing the Vegetable Subforum
« on: March 23, 2017, 02:21:14 PM »
With the fall of the vegetable forum and the rise in sporadic vegetable queries here, I propose we add a new subforum for this topic. In my (potentially flawed) opinion, it should never have been a separate forum to begin with. The topics are too close to each other, and the inconvenience of a separate login was not worthwhile for many. And despite a genuine interest present in many forum members, it is not as prolific a topic as the mainline tropical fruits, so an entire forum dedicated just to that niche was particularly at-risk of falling prey to neglect. We could be more proactive in protecting it from the crap it succumbed to if it was a subforum, and interest in participating in the topic would rise if it was right here, next to the other three categories. It would be a shame to lose what information was present in the original, but rather than try to save a sinking ship by resurrecting that forum, I propose we either transfer what we can, or start fresh, completely from scratch, as a subforum. Is there any practical reason (other than the semi-arbitrary distinction in topics) to keep the topic entirely separate? I don't know if this post breaks any rules (my apologies if it does, it was not my intent), but please, vote and share your opinions. I'd like to know what you all think of the matter.

23
Tropical Fruit Discussion / Exotic Moraceae
« on: March 17, 2017, 09:01:21 PM »
Figs are one of the more well-known family members, globally. Mulberries are the baseline member, enjoyed by all who grow them (but commercially under-appreciated). And Artocarpus are the darlings in Tropical Fruit circles. But how many other family members are worth growing out there? Good flavor, pulp ratio and productivity. Are there any hidden gems out there, or are they mostly "collector's fruit"?

Prainea limpato looks interesting, but I don't know much about its flavor, and its pulp ratio seems low.

Treculia africana looks useful in seed production, but I've read opinions that it's not that productive or worthwhile.

Where does Myrianthus arboreus fit into all of this? I've seen it referred to as a member of this family, as an Urticacean and as a Cecropiacean. And it apparently fixes nitrogen. Regardless of taxonomy, is it worthwhile? I've got my eye out for this species.

Ramón (Brosimum alicastrum) pulp seems scant, but good. The seed seems very useful in theory, but in practice it seems to be held in low esteem by the forum members who've tasted it. Mama Cadela (B. gaudichaudii) seems much more well regarded (if at least as gum; I don't know of you can swallow it), but it seems afflicted by the Cerrado Curse.

Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera) is almost always regarded as inedible (save for the seeds, which seem like way too much work), or outright toxic (which is false). Several user comments here (http://www.eattheweeds.com/maclura-pomifera-the-edible-inedible-2/) allege the flesh to be edible under certain circumstances (prepared like breadfruit, or frost-ripened into an actual fruit, even working it into pies).

Che (M. tricuspidata) is the most well-known "Cudrania" (and still underutilized, it seems). It seems sensitive/unproductive in the tropics, but that won't stop me from trying. Cockspur Thorn (M. cochinchinensis) is an Indo-Australian relative that's said to be tasty, but it's rather hard to find. I've got two survivors from my seeds, no idea what gender. If female, I don't know of they're unproductive (or even fruit-barren) in the absence of a male, or if they fruit seedlessly like Che. M. tinctoria is also edible, but poorly known.

The South American species are of particular interest to me. I've seen 3 Helicostylis species (tomentosa, scabra, and pedunculata) referred to in the forum as being edible and tasty, but they're exceedingly rare, and apparently sensitive as seedlings. Perebea and Maquira seem similar to one another, and they look "juicy", but there's almost no info available on them. Vitor's reference to Naucleopsis ulei as being one of the best fruits he's ever tasted captivated me: I splurged on 5 trees, received 7, and ended up with 6 small-but-strong survivors (hopefully I'll have a mix of males and females among them; they're dioecious, unfortunately). I really hope it's pulpy and worthwhile as more than a collector's fruit, 'cause I'd like to spread it around if it's as good as they say. There's also this thread (http://tropicalfruitforum.com/index.php?topic=20793.0) referring to Naucleopsis (despite the title) as being tasty and pulpy.

Here's one of my N. ulei post-seedlings:


So... Which are the gems, and which are "for collectors"? Have I missed anything important?

24
Temperate Fruit Discussion / Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus)
« on: October 26, 2016, 11:51:08 PM »
Does anyone have any experience with these guys? The information I've found online is limited. So far, I've read they're grown for both nuts and fruit in Japan, that most varieties are unpalatable (with supposedly either "Nana", "Fastigiata" or "Drupacea" tasting good), and that they enjoy a warm-yet-shady environment (or cool and sunny, in a temperate clime). One website likens their taste to "a plum dipped in pine sap". That's all I got, as most of the info out there focuses on their ornamental traits. IMO, any tree that gives a good-tasting fruit-nut combo is good.

Anyone got anything else? Is it potentially worthwhile as a good (or at least passable) backyard fruit & nut?

25
Tropical Fruit Discussion / Overproductive Fruit Trees... As fodder!
« on: September 19, 2016, 12:09:38 AM »
So I've been doing a lot of thinking on integrating livestock on to farms, as I really like the concept of Permaculture in theory (in practice, it seems tough to make the animal part profitable, but doable if you play your cards right). And when I got to pigs (which benefit from a more diverse diet when pastured - they're not really grazers), I started thinking how they always fed loads of Starfruit and Pommarrosas (Syzygium samarangense, S. malaccense, S. jambos, etc.) to the pigs back at the University I went to last year. Which got me thinking: What other tropical trees tend to overproduce fruits and nuts in cultivation? What other fruits could one integrate on a farm to feed pigs?

Aside from those two, I thought maybe some strains of Jackfruit and other Artocarpus (altilis, camansi, etc.) could be worthwhile pig feed, and maybe Brosimum alicastrum as well. I was also taught at the University (in relation to Goats) that Papaya and Watermelon are beneficial against certain parasites, but that may be another topic. Does anyone have any experience with this? Or at least any knowledge on other overproductive tropical fruit & nut trees?

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