Dinner Tonight? Elephant Ears?

Maybe Not, Given the Price

I am growing one of the food staples of the Cameroon Grasslands (where I lived for nearly 4 years as a Peace Corps volunteer). I recently bought a pot of colocasia yams at the Walker Farm in Putney, VT. It is a big-leafed plant with a starchy root tuber that is easy to grow.

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Cocoyams, as they were called, were boiled and pounded in big wooden mortars and served with a sauce of vegetables and sometimes a little dried fish or meat. It was a staple. Easy to grow, nutritious, bland, full of calories. But I am growing them here for the beauty of the leaves.

Cocoyams like sun, heat and moisture

The variety I am growing is a black-leafed one called ‘Black Magic’. It is the same species, Colocasia esculenta, as the yams I ate in West Africa. It is also called taro in Asia. Although the tag on the plant said it would grow to 5 feet in size, I have grown them before and have not seen them get that big. Each leaf is the shape of an elephant ear, hence the alternative name, 'Elephant Ear yam'.

Cocoyams love full sun, heat and moisture. I have the pot sitting in a bird bath so that I can ensure moisture – and to bring the leaves up to eye level for close viewing. It is quite dramatic as visitors arrive at the garden.

I grew this variety in 2010

This winter I will bring my cocoyam indoors and try keeping it as a houseplant. Or I might cut off the leaves, clean the dirt off the tuber and store it in a brown paper bag until spring. Either way, I won’t be eating it. Since I paid $16.95 for my plant, the tuber would cost more than many of my favorite food items!

Have you had good luck over-wintering cocoyams? Let other readers (and me) know what you did. Just write in the comments section below. Thanks!

 Want help in your garden? I make house calls - consultations - to help you plan and improve your gardens. Call me at 603-543-1307 or e-mail me at henry.homeyer@comcast.net 

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