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plant that grows from a relative of the Yam family?

Beverly Erlebacher bae at cs.toronto.edu
Mon Feb 3 13:35:31 EST 2003

In article <v3rh869esm5ha5 at corp.supernews.com>,
blair <blair863 at hotmail.com> wrote:
>I was at somebody's house once and they had a big sprawling plant with heart
>shaped leaves. They said that they grew it by putting a relative of the yam
>family into the ground and planting it. Apparently you could also plant a
>yam and grow a different plant as well.
>Does anyone know what this plant is?

In some areas, sweet potatoes are called yams, but they don't belong to
either the potato or the yam family - they are related to morning glories.

When I was a kid (in ancient times), you could just stick a sweet potato
(Ipomoea batatas) halfway into a glass of water and have a lush sprawling 
plant as described in a few weeks.  Nowadays, both sweet and real potatoes
are usually treated to prevent sprouting, but if you look carefully you may
find some that aren't, perhaps in a store that sells organically grown produce.

In the past few years I've been seeing ornamental cultivars of sweet potato
sold as hanging basket annuals, with lime-green, purple-black or variegated 
leaves.  If you live in an area where people grow sweet potatoes in their
gardens, you may be able to find 'sets' or young plants in the spring.

You can also get some really nice plants from other roots and tubers,
especially if you can find grocery stores catering to people from tropical
areas.  One of my favorite is 'eddoes', which I'm pretty sure is a small
variety of taro (Colocasia esculenta).  You can sometimes find ones that 
are starting to sprout, and grow them in a pot half submerged in a bucket
of water.  The leaves are very attractive, and after a summer on my patio
I actually had two or three times more eddoes than I planted.  These things
must be fantastically productive in a suitable climate, considering how
well they did here in Toronto.  There are ornamental varieties of taro and
related plants but just plain eddoes look great.

They are called eddoes in the West Indies, but you can also find them in
Chinese groceries.  I don't know the name in Chinese, and when I ask, they
tell me 'Chinese potato'!

If you start to get into this sort of exotic produce gardening in pots, be
sure to try ginger, another nice looking plant that does well with surprisingly
little sunlight.  

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