It's been an adventure. Ever since moving to Australia from New Zealand, more than thirty years ago, I've missed yams. While yam is often used as a generic word for sweet potatoes, here I mean oca or Oxalis tuberosa. It's a small, pinkish, finger-shaped sweet potato that melts in the mouth when added to a roast dinner. While it's possible to buy many NZ groceries in Australia (at the supermarket or via mail order) I craved, and couldn't find, NZ yams for a long time.
In 2018, I discovered that an online garden store in Queensland was selling yam plants by mail order so I ordered three (very expensive) plants, which arrived safely but died soon after. Later in 2018 I ordered ten yam tubers from an online garden store in Victoria. They produced foliage but the plants didn't survive the Canberra summer. After a year off to ponder my failures, I bought yet more tubers (nine, this time) from Queensland in 2020. Once again, they sprouted foliage but produced no yams.
What was I doing wrong?
When, in 2021, I found that Feijoa Addiction in Brisbane was selling 5 kg boxes of yams by mail order, I bought 5 kg. Then another 5 kg! They were delicious. Given all my failures in growing them, I intended to eat rather than plant the whole 10 kg. But a couple of green-thumbed friends suggested we should each plant a few at our respective houses and see if anyone could successfully grow yams in and around Canberra. So I shared little bags of yams with five friends and also put some tubers aside to plant at my place. Here's a rough timeline:
The yam plants in shady spots on the southern side of the house produced tubers (1.2 kg in total) whereas the plants in sunnier places on the western and northern sides of the house produced none. My guess is that the reason those plants failed (and previous years' plants failed) was that I planted them in full sun and they cooked in the ground. D'oh. It also seems important to plant them in mounds of soil so there's plenty of room for the wee tubers to develop.
Delighted to finally have some home grown yams. Last night I made a vego roast dinner with pumpkin, onions, yams and broccoli. Yum.