Storing yams, yacon and kumara
At this time of year I’ve been busy getting tomato, chillies, sweetcorn etc going but it’s too early to report on their success or failure so I thought I’d look back over the year of some slightly different tuber vegetables. I harvested my yams and yacon at the end of May and kumara at the start of June (read about planting the yams and yacon in my earlier posts). Ideally these would be stored for several months, even until the next harvest so how well did they last?
Storing the yams
I didn’t have a great harvest from my ‘Nana’s’ yams when I dug them up in May so there was never a chance we’d be eating them for months on end regardless of how they stored. I let them dry out then kept them in a tub in our internal room which is insulated and a constant temperature (probably around 22 C). I didn’t wrap them or anything – just covered them with a cloth. The last few I transferred to the fridge as they’d started sprouting mid September and they were fine in there for weeks.
Replanting the yams for the next season
Without intending to I ended up with three different methods for replanting the yams –
- Potting up – In June I took some of the recently harvested yams and potted them up for the next year. I kept the plants in the greenhouse to protect them over winter. They seemed to grow well and at the end of October I planted them out.
- Sprouted stored yams – The stored yams for eating started sprouting mid September (see photo above) so some I used to plant out at the end of October along with my potted up ones.
- Self sown – The ones I missed when harvesting have regrown and the leafy tops I threw in the bottom of a garden bed are also sprouting (probably from tiny tubers I didn’t think were worth saving). I had heard that once you’ve got yams you’ve got them for life and that is certainly true judging by the yams popping up in their old spot.
- I didn’t get a great harvest from my yams which I’m assuming was because they didn’t get enough nutrients and water at the right time. This year I put alot of composted manure in the ground and will make sure to feed them more while growing and keep up the watering.
- When I planted them late October I kept the potted up lot of yams and the self sprouted lot together as two groups (although they are right next to each other) to compare if one lot did better than the other. It’ll be several months before I’ll harvest them but just looking at the leaf they seem to be doing the same so I probably didn’t need to bother potting some up – just let them naturally sprout or chit them as you would potatoes.
- When harvesting I need to make sure I get all the tubers so they don’t sprout up through the next crop (although I’ve yet to see if these missed ones provide a good crop or not – maybe it’s not a bad thing).
- I didn’t get to wait until after a frost before I dug up the remaining yams as they were getting dug up by puppies and birds and I also needed the bed for potatoes. This year I’ll try and wait until after a frost and see if that improves the flavour.
- Of all three (yams, yacon, kumara) these seemed like they would keep the best – next year I’ll store them somewhere cooler so they don’t start sprouting too early.
Storing the kumara
I planted two types of kumara from the Koanga Institute in November 2015 – Candy and Reka Rawa. These I harvested in early June 2016 once the tops had died down. I had some good sized tubers but mostly small to medium sized ones which we ate first. The bigger good looking ones I stored in a wooden crate, keeping them from touching each other and with a layer of newspaper and cloth in between the two layers.
Kumara are meant to be buried when stored, some people put them in tubs of sand where they sit without touching each other but that seemed like alot of faff so I’m hoping to get away without doing that. I still have a few of the Candy tubers by late December whereas Reka Rawa shriveled over a few months. Candy was red inside and wasn’t our preferred of the two as it didn’t roast very well but it was nice in a kumara pie or salad.
Replanting the kumara
I took some of each variety and planted these in a mix of peat and potting mix. I put them in the greenhouse along with the yams to protect them over winter (although I don’t know if they needed to be in the greenhouse). They started sprouting in spring and I planted them out late October. As neither of these varieties worked that well for us in terms of eating and storage I bought some more from Koanga – this time Maikio Red which sounds like it should keep well and be good eating. This year I added sand to the garden bed as that is preferred for kumara.
This season I need to keep a better eye on the kumara to make sure they aren’t just growing lots of runners which happened last year. This means they’re putting too much energy into growing leaf rather than tubers. Along with the yams they’ll benefit from feeding and watering as the tubers are growing. I’ve added sand to the soil this year so that will hopefully also improve their growth.
Storing the yacon
The yacon was hard to dig up without breaking pieces off or slicing into it. Where this happened it discoloured and started to rot so I had to cut the rot away and keep them in the fridge. I hardened them off in the hot water cupboard with the yams and kumara and then stored them in a plastic tub with the yams. The smaller tubers didn’t store very well – they started to shrivel after a month. Some of the larger ones were ok but I didn’t have enough to last more than a few months to test how well they stored long term.
Replanting the yacon
I took rhizomes from two of the plants, separated them into a few bits and potted them up. These pots were tucked into a corner of the garden, not especially well protected. Once they had some good leaf growing on them in spring I planted them out – they’re in the same bed as last year though not the same spot and are growing happily.
One of the plants I left to grow in the ground back in June. I cut back the leaf as the leaf can suffer from frost apparently. This one resprouted and is growing well. It’ll be interesting to see how the tubers on it compare to the replanted ones. (The tubers didn’t last in the ground, they rotted away).
I’ll try and leave the tubers in the ground for longer this time – perhaps just digging one up as needed. I’ll cut the leaf back once it’s dying down in June again and see how long I can get them to store straight in the ground before needing to dig them all up.