Ornamental and yummy too

Since yam and colocasia grow in the shade, they are great options for an apartment garden

Updated - March 14, 2015 02:48 pm IST

Published - March 13, 2015 03:02 pm IST

Native to Tamil Nadu, Colocasia and Yam grow in the shade, look ornamental and, most importantly, are edible.

Native to Tamil Nadu, Colocasia and Yam grow in the shade, look ornamental and, most importantly, are edible.

For apartment dwellers looking at ways to convert small spaces at home into a green patch, elephant yam (senaikizhangu) and colocasia (sepankizhangu) are great options to start with. Native to Tamil Nadu, these plants grow in the shade, look ornamental and, most importantly, are edible.

Colocasia (Tamil – Sepankizangu , Hindi – Arbi )

A native to south India and southeast Asia, it is a must-have plant in any garden, since it’s practically indestructible and grows with little effort. The tuber and the leaves are used in many cuisines.

Soil: It can be grown in either a pot or in the ground. If you are growing it in a pot, make sure it is large so the tubers have space to develop. You need soil rich in manure and compost — the plant loves nitrogen, so it’s a great companion plant with legumes. Ensure the soil is loose and moist, but well-drained.

Seeding: Colocasia grows directly from the tuber. You can use tubers bought from vegetable vendors. In humid weather, tubers sometimes sprout in the kitchen itself — these can also be used for planting. Plant the tuber close to the surface, with the broader end of the tuber slightly jutting out of the soil. In about 3-4 weeks, a shoot appears and the leaves resembling an elephant ear appear.

Watering: This plant loves humidity. When grown in homes, it needs heavy watering. It’s a good idea to reuse water from the kitchen. Mulching the soil surface with dried leaves will help retain moisture and promote microbial activity in the soil.

Pests: This plant is pest resistant. However, a few diseases do attack it occasionally. Spraying the leaves with a solution of cow urine and water in the ratio 1: 30 will successfully control the disease.

When to harvest: During the growing season, new leaves will grow and old ones will wither. The tubers will multiply and swell. The more hours of sunshine the plant receives, the faster the tubers are formed. The tuber will be ready to harvest in 6 to 7 months.

How to harvest: The whole plant with the roots are dug out of the soil. After removing the upper part of the plant from the tubers and dusting off (not washing) the soil stuck to the tubers, it can be used right away or can be stored for one to two months. Continue looking in the pot — you will find a few stray unattached tubers.

How to propagate: You can save a few of the harvested tubers for planting the next crop. Make sure they dry out before planting. Every new planting of colocasia is done in a new pot so that the soil is rich in nitrogen. Companion planting or successive planting of leguminous plants work wonders for this hungry plant. Choose a healthy sucker from a well-grown plant for the next cycle.

Elephant Foot Yam (Tamil –Senai Kizhangu; Hindi –Suran/ Jimikand)

This versatile yam is a beautiful plant that grows very well in partial sun/ semi-shade conditions.

How to grow: Elephant foot yam can be grown in the ground or in a large pot. The tuber needs space to grow as it can grow quite large. In either case, you will require well drained, fertile soil, rich in compost and manure. The ‘eye’ of the yam or the top ring is used to propagate the plant — it contains the bud. You cut out the ‘eye’ making incisions about two inches wide and two inches deep. We recommend that this be dipped in diluted cow dung slurry or diluted Panchagavya and then dried in shade. Place it in the soil such that the eye is just covered. After a dormant period of about a month, the sprouting region gives rise to an umbrella like leaf.

Watering: This plant needs gentle watering. Excess watering leads to infection. Ensure the soil and pots are well drained so that water does not stagnate.

Pests: Make sure the soil is well-drained. Adding a handful of neem cake (organic manure) will help keep pests in check.

When to harvest: Patience is definitely a virtue in this case. It takes around eight months to a year for the yam to form well. During this time, there will be new leaves coming up and old ones yellowing and falling off. The whole plant with the roots are dug out of the soil, dusted and stored.

Cooking: Both yams are used in cuisines all over India. They are eaten cooked. The leaves of colocasia are also used in many forms.

Courtesy: The Magic Bean

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