Caesar Smith

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since Nov 04, 2019
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Recent posts by Caesar Smith

Thanks for the recommendation Lorinne. I still haven't gotten one, so I'll look into it.



D. esculentus is one of my thinner vines, but don't let that fool you, they're tougher than D. esculenta vines, not frail.

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My Saipan Purple has been churning out bulbils, so I figured now is a good time to taste them. To avoid poisoning myself – or confirm its toxicity (it is a semi-toxic variety) – I boiled it three times, changing the water between boils. I had intended on each time to be 30 minutes, but I ended up doing one 30 and two 20 minute boils by mistake. I was tempted to keep the skin, but I figured if the flesh was toxic, the skin would be more so.

I mashed it and seasoned it, ate half first, then the remainder a half hour later (long enough to give me time to adjust, but close enough where toxicity should've been apparent). The smell and flavor reminded me of Yams and Chayote and slightly of Camansi Nut (but much milder and more pleasant than the nut). My father likened the smell to that of ordinary yams.

It's been a day, and no symptoms developed. I figure it's a decent edible variety, provided it's properly cooked. I'm not sure I'd recommend bigger portion sizes (I just ate one bigger-than-apple-sized bulbil), but I have no qualms about eating it again. I wouldn't taste Tefoe Purple yet, though, since that one is almost entirely untested (I'd like to send a sample to a lab, if I knew of one).

Note: This took place after a heaping plate of rice, so I'm not sure if an empty stomach would've given different results.



Further updates:

CV-2, sourced by the same person who gave me CV-1, is said to be superior, but I only have two bulbils at hand, so I'm not sure about tasting it yet. The vine has several more bulbils, but they're still small.

Nonthaburi Yellow died back to the ground. Worried about the possibility of it rotting, I dug up the tuber, washed it, trimmed it, dried it, and bagged it until planting time next season.

I need to think and work long and hard to find a good planting spot for next season. Bulbifera really doesn't seem to like pots... It struggles to produce, and often dies back without a crop. In the ground though, it's the strongest vine I have.

Now that I have some bulbils, I'm going through my list one-by-one, checking in with the interested parties, so if you get a moosage from me, it's probably that.
3 months ago
Apologies for my delay, I've some updates to give:

I haven't shipped anything yet. I never found the scale for weighing packages. I browsed the results of an amazon search, but couldn't find the right balance between accessibly priced, good reviews (less likely to malfunction or break), and good weight range (some have a lower or upper threshold beyond which they won't weigh the package). I'll keep searching, but for now I haven't contacted anyone on the list yet.

André Troylilas wrote:Nice, Caesar!
By the way, my bulbs are still sleeping...



That's a minor red flag, does this still hold true? A long dormancy for that variety is normal, my main concern is whether it'll start bearing bulbils in time to beat the winter cold (that won't be as much of an issue if they're well protected, I think).


Thomas Black wrote:Those purple bulbiferas are crazy. Are they more vigorous than the other bulbiferas? I ask because I’ve notice that my Ube’s are much more vigorous than my regular D. alata’s.



Saipan Purple is currently my largest, longest and strongest vine (despite being the last to sprout and having resprouted from a chicken attack early on) so there may be some truth to that. Tefoe Purple is my thinnest vine, but it came from a very tiny bulbil.



Something to note for folks in cold climates... The Hawaiian varieties (maybe they're all one clone) are my most precocious producers by far. CV-1 doesn't usually form bulbils until October, and that's only the earliest ones (production starts in earnest around December). Meanwhile, both Steve's Hawaii and Jim's Hawaii started bearing just before summer, maybe around April or May. I no longer have Steve's Hawaii (I have to re-acquire it), but Jim's Hawaii currently has at least 3 bulbils, and one of them is looking to reach the 1lb mark. Early production seems like it might be a useful trait where cold winters are concerned. None of my other varieties (African or Asian) have bulbils yet.

The few off-vine stored bulbils I have are from my most delayed producer... Sena starts growing in late summer or early fall, and only starts producing bulbils deep into winter and spring the following year (I just harvested my last bulbil off the recently dried vine).

And finally, bulbil age may affect the vine's growth through the season. My eatliest Sena bulbil is already sprouting, but the rest of them are still quite dormant. It could be that the earliest sprouters are also the earliest to bear. This is something that deserves detailed study... Far beyond my current capacity, unfortunately.
5 months ago
No experience with it yet. I've been looking for it for a long time. I finally found two sources of it from South Africa:

* https://durandtsheirloomseeds.co.za/product/tsenza-african-potato/

* https://livingseeds.co.za/tsenza.html

The second source (Living Seeds) confirmed (on inquiry) that they ship overseas, and that I should watch the page for availability starting around August... Still nothing, but I'm checking often.

I've read that it's a tough and easy plant, though P.r. is easier, and that it's edible raw or cooked. Yellow flowers, long thin tubers.

I also found another Potato Mint, Plectranthus punctatus subsp. lanatus (allegedly different from the third Potato Mint, P. edulis), at Rare Palm Seeds, and placed an order. Still waiting.

* https://www.rarepalmseeds.com/plectranthus-punctatus-subsp-lanatus
5 months ago
I have a small backlog of people interested in the air potatoes. I had decided against shipping mainly because of the pandemic... It gets complicated for me. In the past, I'd always have to prepare the package, take it to the USPS, get a quote, bring it back home and communicate the price, only to go out again to ship it later. But I'm thinking it'd be simpler to cut out the middle steps...

There may be a scale somewhere around the house. I'll look for it, or buy a new one if it's not there. That way, I can weigh the packages at home and confirm the shipping cost by phone, saving me an unnecessary trip to the USPS. If I could do this, I'd be willing to ship again.

I have a few Sena bulbils in storage, and Jim's Hawaii is entering production much earlier than expected. I gotta go through my backlog first, but after that, I'll keep y'all posted if things go well.
6 months ago
Try to get 'em tested in a lab before tasting them, if you intend to eat them. Poisonous types are dangerous, and require grating, washing, steeping, drying and other repetitive steps to render them edible (and that might not even work for the worst types). But if you've found an edible type, you have quite the treasure on your hands.

I just collected the last of my "Sena" bulbils, and "Hawaii" is starting to produce, several months earlier than any other variety. This species keeps surprising me.

Keep posting the progress, I'm keen on seeing how yours does. Looks like it's starting off right!

Also... Nice mock strawberries. I hear they're very mild, but I wouldn't mind growing them myself.
6 months ago

Aj Hans wrote:I put my CV-2s in the ground a week ago or so. I may just start a thread on them when they start doing something worth talking about.



That'd be a CV-1, actually. Smooth sativa type, and the only one I've distributed so far. CV-2 is a bumpy phenotype, suavior, and the vine died back prematurely when I had to go on a trip the first year I grew it. I hadn't even labeled the planters, so I couldn't tell which pot had which root until they started growing. I've started labeling the different pots as they grew and produced, and only four remain unlabeled. CV-2 is at least one of those, maybe all four of 'em. I hope I get a big crop, my source told me they're tastier than CV-1!

Post the pics when they come in, I'm excited to see how they do in different locations.
7 months ago

Jason Hernandez wrote:Oh, yours are yellow! Then mine might not be bulbifera. Thank you for posting the ways to tell the species apart; if there are others besides bulbifera that produce aerial tubers, then I will need to look in detail and identify mine for sure.

Local Dominican farmers do not seem to have cultivar names like the ones you describe; I have been told of only two varieties, which they call simply white and yellow. Mine are the white, suited to the soil on my site which is not rocky; the yellow, I am told, does better where the soil is rocky.

I haven't eaten any of the aerial tubers yet, because I have been saving them for planting material. The yams get enormous, though! Here is a picture -- note that it is broken off; I couldn't get all of it out of the ground!



How's the ID coming along? Have you managed to identify other species in your collection?

I maintain strict nomenclature for the bulbiferas to minimize the odds of redundant varieties and to perpetuate each individual line. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if I had a few repeated varieties: Jim and Steve's Hawaii might be one and the same, and Pínczow seems quite similar to those (and despite being obtained from and named for a European city, the vendor assures he originally obtained it from the US). As for the other yams with cultivar names, it's inconsistent. We do occasionally get named varieties in local markets (Florido is the standard alata here), most are just referred to by species name (Guinea Yam for rotundata, Mapués Yam for trifida, Gulembo Yam for Rajania cordata). They use cultivar names at the Ag research station, but the local farmers rarely do so.

That definitely looks like an alata to me! They grow feral in the hills here, there's always yams if you know where to look. The piece that stayed behind will likely sprout by itself as well.



A contact of mine said Saipan Purple is about half as bitter as the wild bulbiferas. 1 boil makes it partially bitter, with an accompanying toxic effect – he ate a pound of it with one boil, and the bitterness was tolerable, but it left him with a headache. 2 boils is suspected of being sufficient to render it edible.

Despite the setback of a hungry chicken breaking its growing tip, it's already putting on growth like crazy. In fact, all my yams are growing, with only a couple of air potato varieties still beneath the soil surface (but even those have started the sprouting process).

The diversity in physical traits is surprising. The Asian types are relatively variable in both bulbil and vine traits, and those varieties that are similar to one another are growing apart in separate places on the trellis, no big risk of confusion. Two pockmarked, two bumpy, one knotted, one smooth, two purples, easy peasy.

Meanwhile, the African types are much more similar in vine traits, and I suspect in bulbil traits as well. I made the mistake of putting them all in the same spot, and they are growing in a tangle of vines that's hard to identify. I'm going to try to track each vine to its roots when the bulbils come in, otherwise I'm going to have to eat all the bulbils (none for planting) and re-propagate from the roots next season. Keeping each variety properly identified is crucial, I can't afford to make a mistake in ID'ing them, confusing them could cost me a variety.

I'll post some pics now, but let me say the photos don't do them justice, the vines are quite vibrant! I hope they're posted correctly (I'm noticing some pics seemingly flipped on their side as I upload). Here goes...
7 months ago
I'm leaving this post here as a record and for convenience. With that said, the information posted below has been integrated into my original post. That is all.

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Hi all!

I have some corrections on the Etsy link for Babubotanicals. My original post no longer has the option to edit... Can we get a moderator to help me update? It would help prevent further misunderstanding.

In the meantime, I'll be posting the corrections here:

Babubotanicals sells two different varieties (and knows of a third one – which they don't sell –, bitter, requires boiling a few times to render it non-bitter). They sell both seeds and bulbils, but they sell them individually, so if you want both, you'll have to order both (assuming they're available at the same time, which they may not be). Each variety has its own listing, and they're not referred to as being the same.

The first variety, sold only as
bulbils, is the one I call Odisha Yellow, and lacks bitterness; they were never listed as bitter. They're not currently available... There's an "Inform when restocked" feature, but I've been told it doesn't work. The official listing is this one: https://www.etsy.com/listing/644196954/edible-dioscorea-bulbifera-non-bitter

The second variety – sold as seeds – has tiny bulbils, not considered edible by the seller due to its bitter flavor. It's reasonably consistent by seed, and is native to central India. Link here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/644244780/dioscorea-bulbifera-with-both-bulbs-and
9 months ago