NZ Lifestyle Block - - Grow & Tell - Pop­pies in their seed pod stage. Meyer le­mons. Yams dug in June.

We’re into the yum­mi­ness of yam eat­ing and this year they are an im­por­tant part of our diet as we try to stretch out the pota­toes. Last year’s spud sea­son was not so good for us, and the toma­toes weren’t much ei­ther.

This com­ing sea­son we will be ap­ply­ing cop­per. Cop­per helps to con­trol fun­gal out­breaks but as a heavy me­tal it is to be used with great cau­tion. We don’t do it of­ten as we pre­fer to strive for a bal­anced gar­den when it comes to soil build­ing with the use of lime, ma­nures, min­er­als and plant­ing ro­ta­tions. And then of course there is the weather…

But back to yams. These tasty mem­bers of the ox­alis fam­ily are planted in spring af­ter frosts fin­ish. We save the big­gest and best-look­ing yams and ev­ery two or three years freshen up the strain with a few bought su­per­mar­ket ones, ones not sprayed with a sprout in­hibitor.

Through their long grow­ing sea­son we treat them like the pota­toes, earth­ing them up at least once, prefer­ably twice, as they grow. Then we do nada, noth­ing, un­til the tops be­gin to die off in win­ter, apart from wa­ter­ing. Fer­til­ity is pro­vided just the once in ba­sic ground prepa­ra­tion of ma­nur­ing and lim­ing.

It’s no use look­ing to see how big they might be get­ting in the early part of their growth as the tu­bers don’t size up un­til about the last six weeks be­fore harvest. A frost will sweeten them fur­ther, and the crop is left in the ground as we find they don’t store well in bags or boxes.

In the kitchen, yams are roasted, added to soups, casseroles - both veg­e­tar­ian and meat - cur­ries, and some­times just boiled, then driz­zled with le­mon juice and a good grind­ing of black pep­per. They cook quickly, re­quire min­i­mal prepa­ra­tion and are good for us, an ex­cel­lent all-round vege.

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