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Air potato bulbils can be brown with rough, spotted, warty skin or smooth with a tan to light grey skin. They are irregularly shaped, oblong, and can grow up to 15 centimeters in size. Air potatoes have a starchy, slimy, beige orange flesh and it has a mild, sometimes bitter flavor. Air potatoes are an herbaceous twinning vine, meaning it uses other vegetation to cling to and support its weight. Twinning in a counterclockwise direction, these vines have heart shaped, emerald green leaves that appear in an alternating pattern on the stems. The bulbils can grow and hang down from the vine in the air and can also be found growing underground in the dirt.
Air potatoes are available in the late fall and early winter months.
The Air potato, botanically classified at Dioscorea bulbifera, is actually not a potato at all and is a member of the Dioscoreaceae, or Yam family. It is also known as an Aerial yam, Potato yam, Bitter yam, Uchu Imo, Dukkar Kand, Karaino, Varahi Kand, Kaachil, and l’hoffe. A unique feature of the Air potato is its ability to spread quickly over natural vegetation and grow over 20 centimeters per day. Due to this ability, the Air potato is considered an aggressive invasive species and is being controlled in many states such as Florida because of its destructive nature.
Air potatoes are a good source of flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory benefits.
Air potatoes are best in cooked applications and should be treated and prepared like a yam. They carry an extremely bitter flavor so they must be boiled to reduce the bitterness. Some wild, uncultivated varieties of the Air potato, like the ones found in Florida, cannot be eaten due to their toxic nature. Cultivated Air potatoes from Asia are popular for making Okonomiyaki, a Japanese style pancake that uses a variety of ingredients. Additionally, they can be added to miso soups, curry, tempura and Nimono (Japanese style simmered dishes). Air potatoes will keep well when loosely wrapped and stored in a cool, dry place.
Air potatoes are used in many cultures for medicinal purposes. In the west, Air potatoes are used because they contain diosgenin, a steroid that helps create commercial steroidal hormones. In the east, they are used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to help aid against diarrhea, sore throats and jaundice.
Air potatoes originated in Asia and were then introduced to Africa, the Pacific Islands, and northern Australia. Today they can still be found in the aforementioned places, but Air potatoes can also be found in the warmer climate regions of the United States such as Hawaii, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana and even in the West Indies.
Recipes that include Air Potatoes. One is easiest, three is harder.
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