Air Yam
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Air Yam
ative Photo: Aishwarya Mehendale
Common name: Aerial yam, Air potato, Air yam, Bitter yam, Cheeky yam, Potato yam, Wild yam • Hindi: ज़िमीकंद Zimikand • Bengali: Kukuralu • Manipuri: ꯐꯨꯝ ꯍꯥ Phum ha • Marathi: कडु करंडा Kadu-karanda • Nepali: गीठे तरुल Gitthe tarul • Mizo: Bachhim, Rambachhim • Tamil: Pannu pilangu
Botanical name: Dioscorea bulbifera    Family: Dioscoreaceae (yam family)

Air yam is found in both Africa and Asia with slight differences between those found in the two places. It is a large vine 20 ft or more in length. It produces tubers; however the bulbils which grow at the base of its leaves are the more important food product. They are about the size of potatoes (hence the name air potato) weighing from 0.5 to 2 kg. Some varieties can be eaten raw while some require soaking or boiling for detoxification before eating. It is not grown much commercially since the flavor of other yams is preferred by most people. However it is popular in home vegetable gardens because it produces a crop after only 4 months of growth and continues for the life of the vine, as long as two years. Also the bulbils are easy to harvest and cook. Male flowers on pendent inflorescence, from bracteate (rarely leafy) stems, up to 50 (even 100) cm long; whitish or pinkish; female flowers on pendent axillary inflorescences. It is found in Western Ghats and the Himalayas, at altitudes of 150-2100 m.

Identification credit: Pravin Kawale, J.M. Garg Photographed in and Maharashtra & Himachal Pradesh.

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