Urban dwellers and other farmers, who have limited space, can grow high yielding and quick maturing aerial yams in soil-filled containers, which form fruit-like tubers among the leaves.
Unlike other yams whose tubers must be buried in the soil, these varieties only require the soil for nutrients.
Murang’a County farmer who introduced the yams more than five years ago into the county from West Africa, said the aerial tubers mature faster than ordinary types.
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“The first harvest is ready after six and half months. Other soil buried tubers take one or more years to mature. With proper weeding and rainfall or irrigation, one plant can give yields filling one 20kg bucket after 11 months,” he said.
Urbanites can grow the yams in old soil-filled containers and support the meandering stem on posts and rails to keep the tubers off the ground.
This means they can be grown like beauty plants around homesteads as well as on fences.
The tubers grow from the eye bases of the leaves by starting as buds. They grow like ordinary fruits while green turning brown as they mature.
"Aerial yams allow for farmers to harvest only mature tubers unlike the other types, which must be uprooted," Ngure said.
After an 11-month production cycle, the shoots dry down as others emerge for another season.
At his shamba, he spaces them yams at 5m by 5m.
They grow from 200g to about 700g or more, depending on crop husbandry. The size also dictates the price of these false fruits, ranging from Sh100 to Sh500.
The market is still narrow, with more people buying it from him for domestic consumption or propagation.
There are more than 600 aerial yam varieties, but some of them are poisonous. He sells planting material of two varieties, which have been confirmed to be safe for consumption.
PHOTO: Simon Ngure stands below one of the aerial yam canopies with the brown false fruit yams at his home in Murang'a County. The aerial yams need minimal space, therefore best for urban dwellers. PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.
Ngure can be contacted on +254726354080