Botanical Name: Xanthosoma sagittifolium
Some other names: Arrowleaf elephant’s ear, Malanga, Taro kang kong
How to grow it: Coco yam is a perrenial clumper to about 1.5m which in many ways is similar to Taro – except the leaf is more arrow shaped, and connects to the stalk at the base of the leaf – not from the centre as in Taro. It is grown extensively in tropical areas of the world as a food plant
Though it does best in the tropics, it will also do well in cooler areas provided there’s no heavy frost. In cooler areas, it will die back & reshoot in spring. Grows well in sun or shade.
Unlike Taro, it prefers soil that drains – stagnating or dying in boggy situations. Deeper, more fertile soils will produce bigger tubers. Regular watering is still essential for healthy plants.
For best growth, mulch & fertilise well. The leaves can get very large & attractive – an excellent ornamental plant.
In colder climates, you could grow it inside in a pot until conditions warm up. Prefers some sunlight, but will handle light shade well too.
It does well in large pots – I grow some in my greenhouse where it loves the warmer moist conditions.
Propogation once you have one patch established is as simple as replanting roots or suckers that will come up all around the main plant. If you harvest the main plant, the area around it will quickly reproduce new shoots.
Will do very well in pots, though harvest of tubers will be much smaller than a ground grown one. Great looking pot plant though.
Nutrition: Leaves are high in protein & contain vitamins A, B, & C, calcium & potassium. Good source of fibre.
Tubers are rich in easily digestible carbohydrates, and also contain good amounts of Vitamins A & C, protein, magnesium, potassium & phosphorous.
Using it in the kitchen:
All parts of Coco yam need to be well cooked before eating as they are toxic raw. The toxins are destroyed by cooking. Corms should be peeled first.
The leaves and stems can be cooked into curries, soups & casseroles for their high protein content. The stems also add an interesting texture & they will tend to take on the flavour of the dish.
Corms can be added to all the same hot dishes and are excellent as a roast or boiled vegetable or cut into chips.
Coco Yam is a great survival food as all parts are eaten, and it’s very hardy as long as you live in a warmer climate. Makes an excellent ornamental that can be harvested in times of need.