I have a wild plan that I want to try this year. I'll report back, but I wonder if anybody else has tried it.
One of the best-tasting wild edible greens in the Oklahoma woods in springtime is the new growth on Greenbriars. This is a vertical-growing vine with sharp barbed thorns, a starchy and vaguely-edible root, and edible but bland berries late in the summer. There are a bunch of similar Smilax species; I haven't tried to ID this specific one.
In the spring, new growth on this vine (tendrils at the tip) is extremely tender and sweet and crunchy and tasty. Flavor somewhat similar to young asparagus. I never miss a chance to pluck and munch as I walk through the woods, but there's rarely enough to harvest in quantity.
My thought is to transplant some into a container (I do NOT want these vines growing loose in my yard, but they don't tolerate being mowed so it's no problem) and train them up a trellis. And then prune them at about head height. I figure if I keep doing this, they may keep sending up new shoots until I have a very dense thicket -- enough to harvest a whole salad from at one time.
I don't know whether I would just get one or two cuttings in spring, or whether, if cut regularly, they would keep trying to put on new growth throughout the summer. If the latter, this could be a very worthwhile experiment! (However I doubt this; I've never seen mature vines that have been cut while trail clearing try to send out new shoots in high summer.)
Yummy trail snack! Hmmm... With enough pinching back, can a vine be bushy? Or... maybe end up like a stooling. Lots of vines from a single root. the vines do branch... Maybe bury a length of vine, hopefully forcing it to send up verticle branches that become new vines.
Mound layering (also called stooling) is the most important commercial form of layering.
Numerous fruit tree rootstocks, especially apple, are propagated by mound layering.
It's the case that where one finds this vine in the wild, it usually grows in clusters and clumps ... half a dozen or a dozen stems coming up out of the soil in the same couple of square feet. I imagine ... without having done the excavation ... that they are coming from the same tuber, or a cluster or clump of tubers.
What I'm hoping is that by one means or another the density of stems per square foot can be somewhat increased. It doesn't seem at all far-fetched that repeated mechanical "messing with" the existing vines would cause healthy roots to send up additional shoots ... but that doesn't mean it will actually happen.
Dan, I can't post the pictures, but this was a favorite in Florida. My neighbors thought I was crazy. It is delicious sauteed with a finish of soy sauce or fish sauce. We had a several types of smilax, and I preferred the big ones as big around as asparagus. There is a very short window to harvest, they get woody quickly. But if you catch them growing fast, you can harvest long shoots that are tender. Wherever they would snap off with finger pressure is the limit. We were able to have fresh smilax for about a month, and it took under a half hour to harvest enough for a large pan for the whole family. The big fat ones were first, then the smaller ones would start coming out. The deer graze them intensively around my house.
How I guerrilla managed the smilax patches was to machete them to the ground in the fall/winter. That maximized the stored energy in the root (and ours were definitely woody roots, not a tuber). Then in the spring they would shoot up. I would only harvest one year, maybe two, then move on. I also took care to clear the competing vines, because otherwise the smilax could get snuffed out. I think you could harvest again in a few years in Florida, it grows unbelievably fast. It is really a treasure. I don't know if it would be more productive if you really managed it.
Standing on the shoulders of giants. Giants with dirt under their nails
Ooh, that sounds nice! We don't have any that big in my bioregion; the largest is perhaps pencil-sized. But there is rather a lot. It seems pretty sensitive to being whacked, though; that's my method for getting rid of it. This may be a climate difference, Florida has a lot more summer moisture than we do.
I'm obviously going to have to play with different management regimes to figure out what kinds of pruning and watering maximizes growth.