Japanese Mountain Yam


The Japanese Mountain Yam (Dioscorea Japonica) or Jinenjo Yam, is also known as “Yamaimo” in Japan, as well as the “East Asian Mountain Yam” elsewhere. The yam can often be mistaken and mislabeled as the Chinese Yam as they are very similar visually. It is native to Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, and Northern India. Due to its sparse and wide spread nativity throughout southern Asia, there have been 4 accepted forms of subspecies of Dioscorea Japonica which include:

  • Dioscorea japonica var. japonica
  • Dioscorea japonica var. nagarum
  • Dioscorea japonica var. oldhamii
  • Dioscorea japonica var. pilifera 

Jinenjo is a hearty and productive perennial root crop that can be grown in full sun to partial shade and between heartiness zones 4-10. Because of this wide range of heartiness, the yam can be grown in a vast amount of climates, making very accessible to farmers all around the world. Historically, people have thought that yams were only able to be grown in tropical climates, but the Japanese Mountain Yam due to its heartiness can be grown all over North America and even in the Cascadia regions close to home.


The tubers of the plant grow at the base of the vines like a cluster of sweet potatoes. The vines will grow upwards of 4m tall. It also grows small tubers on the vines that look similar to air potatoes. These are often suitably used for seeding the plant. If the plant is desired to be maintained as a perennial, at least one tuber must be left in the ground, or cut the top third off one or two tubers and replant them.


The plant is comparable in visuals to that of a taro root, making it easy to describe to those who may not be familiar to the appearance of the plant. The plant itself has edible roots which are the plant tubers which are most commonly consumed. The air potato-like shoots are also edible but not consumed nearly as much due to the inferior size of the fruits.


Interestingly enough, the Japanese Mountain Yam is the only known yam to be consumed raw. Traditionally in Japan, it is often served cut or shaven julienne-style raw and either served with an egg on top, or with various other sauces including soy sauce or wasabi and eaten as a light salad/appetizer. Also has been eaten with steamed eel and diced cucumber.

In terms of its medicinal uses, many studies have shown that it could be a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, and may also be beneficial for intestinal health and oxidation prevention.


Jacke, D., & Toensmeier, E. (2005). Edible Forest Gardens (Vol. 1&2). White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publ.

Toensmeier, E. (2007). Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles. Chelsea Green Publishing.


From Brown Fields to Eco-Activism: How Can Permaculture Showcase Ecological Resiliency?

IMG_1188.JPGOliver Kellhammer had been talked about a lot leading up to his day with us on Cortes Island. Many of us may not have understood his importance at the time, but I can assure you that once we were introduced to Oliver, we were immediately star struck (at least I was).

Throughout my degree I have always had difficulty discovering a path that I could see myself ending up in. I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to be involved in the planning of cities and how we can continue to develop within a sustainable framework. Although, I’ve never completely been satisfied with current efforts to do this to the extent that I had researched, and constantly find myself looking to ways of how we can live a carbon neutral life while still living in cohesive, dense, urban communities.

Once I discovered permaculture I began to understand that many of the core values of permaculture are very related the everyday interactions of humans and their environment. I knew there would be a great link between permaculture principals and the ecological resiliency of our urban environment, I’ve just always found a hard time honing it down. This was of course until I met Oliver.

As I believe I mentioned to many peers after Oliver’s teaching session with us, his work comes to the pinnacle of what I believe environmental justice, urban development, and political action should entail. His ability to combine art, activism, ecology, environmental resiliency, and social justice all into a single mechanism of performativity is beyond mind boggling to me. His various art installations including Lead Down the Garden Path, Weed Sanctuary, Cottonwood Community Gardens, and Healing the Cut-Bridging the Gap are able to “demonstrate nature’s surprising ability to recover from damage” (oliverk.org).

It has been very rare for me to find someone who is so interdisciplinary in their work and who are so engaging and inspiring. I have found myself to be pretty discouraged in humanity with the current state of some of our urban centres. Specifically in industrial sites, waste dumping sites, and brown fields, Oliver has been able to transform these spaces into ones of environmental fortune; rich with plant and human activity. Creating these spaces have allowed for a regained sense of community within inner-city settlements, the restoration of largely damaged land, and have provided a space for eco-activism (People & Plants vs. the Bureaucrats!). It makes it nice to know that there are people out there who are fixing the problems that others have created.

A Glass Half Full of Sustainability

Like many things in life, I am a person who has had trouble beginning an endeavour while knowing that I will never be able to fully complete the task. While it may seem like a good trait at first, there are various aspects of life that I have begun to realize which may not need to be fully accomplished. A great aspect of this is sustainable living.

I have had a hard time convincing myself of changing various aspects of my lifestyle to reduce my overall footprint on our planet. While buying local wherever possible, taking public transit when available, and consuming a mostly organic chemical-free lifestyle, I still find myself looking towards further sustainable goals (and rightfully so).

As I aspire to this ecologically improved lifestyle, I often run into a mental barrier saying: “why do anything if you’re not going to go all the way?”. The various meetings with permaculture experts on Cortes Island have allowed me to challenge this thought of tackling personal sustainability goals without feeling the guilt of not being able to do it all.

I recognize that while people aim to maintain a sustainable lifestyle, we are wrong to expect them to live one of net-zero carbon. This comes through my admiration of the lifestyle choices that have been made by people such as Max and Brent.

While Max is an exceptional hunter and gatherer, he still relies on various fossil fuel resources to allow him to live his everyday life to a comfortable level. This means that Max will still use a boat motor with gasoline to power his boat. Does this undermine his credibility someone living a sustainable lifestyle? Not at all.

Similarly, in the case with Brent, while he is super resourceful and generally a none-wasteful human being, he will still ship in coconut husks from out of town to feed his compost. Even though it is a waste product, it still needs to be brought in from an outside resource – thus requiring transportation and more fossil fuels.

All in all, the main reasoning behind all of this is to not be too hard on yourself. Make those baby steps that you feel will help you lead a more sustainable lifestyle, and you will be doing good no matter the circumstances.