California to Puerto Rico

Que Es Eso?

By: | Tags: | Comments: 19

I pulled these two vines out of one of our planters and with them came these strange bulbous roots. I’ve seen similar growths all over our property and have always wondered…que es eso?!

puerto rican tuber

puerto rico potato

PR tuber

puerto rican potato

What are these things?! Is it a potato? that is exactly what it looks like when I cut them open, but potatoes don’t grow vines do they? I thought they grew bushy plants…

Any ideas what these things are? Animal, vegetable, mineral?


19 thoughts on “Que Es Eso?

  1. Rosa

    Boil it, put some salt & EVOO and try it, if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger! It looks like a vegetable. 🙂

  2. Dorian

    Before you eat anything, walk up the hill and ask your neighbours if they know what this thing might be…..I had never seen it before but it looks like a kind of yuca, and if I remember well their is a type of yuca that should not be eaten….let us know thou!

  3. Hamilton


    I think its a variety of yam. The older people in PR may recognize it. Its been too long for me since I last saw them planted. If it is yam, the locals call it “n~ame”.

    Here is a link that may help:

    Good luck,

    H Jr.

  4. Joan P.


    It is a vegetable like our potatoe, peel it, boil it with garlic and serve it hot with a little bit of extra virgen olive oil. I believe it is name with the little line over the “m”

  5. katrina kruse

    Not sure about the spelling – but think it might a malenga? If the vine is kind of triangular and up in the trees with purplish potatoes on it follow the vine to the ground and dig it. It IS edible. We’ve got it climbing the trees and our neighbor lady it is good. It is another of the odd roots that you “hervir una hora” – boil the crap out of, aceite y ajo and eat! When the hurricane comes we can truly live off the land here!

    On another note, I cut up a batata amarillo from the grocery store (the thing that is a sweet potato but not like the US sweet potatoes) and buried them in the garden – I’ve got vines now so who knows what’s goin on underground! I didn’t use a fungicide and couldn’t really find eyespots but it worked anyway! katrina

  6. Cris

    Ñame is a Yam(not sweet potatoes), but I dont think they are yams. It might be Yuca(cassava). Or Yautia(malanga).

    • I. Rodriguez

      It is definitely NOT yuca because they do not grow vines. Yuca grows a woody bush like this picture below:

      It kind of looks a little like apio which grows a vine, and pods of beans that are edible, but apio is yellow inside, so it’s not apio either.
      It looks more like ñame (Dioscorea alata), which also grows a vine, and the root is white inside like in the picture, but there are many types of ñames out there: there’s ñame florido, ñame habanero, and other names I can’t remember from the top of my head.

      If you decide to try it, don’t take a lot of it. just a bite or two. Then wait several hours to see if you get sick or not. But I would ask around before eating it, just in case it’s poisonous.

  7. Summer

    Van- Takes one to know one…;) Just kidding!

    Rosa – I do want to try it! But I would rather that it didn’t kill me (which is why I’m trying to figure out what it is 1st).

    Bulbboy – Love love love “Pan’s Labrynth” and yes, it does look like the Mandrake root. Creeeeppppppyyyyy!

    Dorian – I will definately ask my friend Jerry, next time he stops by. He pretty much knows everything (and can do/build/fix anything!).

    Dianne – We miss you too!!!! Want to come down and test this thing I found growing in the yard? Ha. I’m glad I got to see you/Conner/Van/Lola/Zeek last time I was in SD. I think I might be coming back sooner then later and bringing Stefan, so hopefully we’ll see you before FL.

    Hamilton – That was a good read. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it must be a yam! I wasn’t aware that yams produced vines.

    Katrina – Is the batata amarillo the huge, mutant yam looking root that we see in the local Econo?

    Cris – Now I’m all confused again :). Yam or Yuca? Both are edible, right? Maybe I’ll just eat them and all them YUM!!

  8. Cris

    Sorry I didnt mean to confuse you. I am not sure what it is. I do Not think its a yam because yams are usually less bumpy. I think it can be yuca or yautia. If not, then I have no clue. But try & eat it, just make sure you boil it thoroughly bc some roots cant be eaten raw. Im sure u wouldnt want to anyway lol. Try looking at these photos & compare it

  9. Marie

    Thats neither yuca nor yautia. Yucas and yautias grow as potatoes. Confused…

    *called parents home*

    According to my parents that’s a “name de monte”, but that part is inedible. All viandas (yautias, names, batatas and yucas) grow below ground, and on that case the vianda you’ seeing growing on the vine is just the seedlings for the edible root growing below ground.
    So don’t eat them, not because they’re poisonous, just because my parents said you don’t eat that part. I guess it is against good puertorican customs or something. hehehehhe

  10. H Jr.

    I don’t think they are yautias or yucas.

    Here is a link that describes “yautia”:

    The plant leaves look more like elephant ears.

    And here is a link that describes “yuca” or cassava:

    This one has better pictures of the cassava plant:

    All of them are yummy specially if you plant, harvest, and cook them yourselves. My grandparents used to cook a whole bunch of different “viandas” with codfish, stir fried onions, and virgin olive oil. Also, the old people used to cook “sancocho” which is a kind of thick soup much like the Brunswick Stew, but made with all kinds of viandas.

    “Buen Provecho” or “Bon Appétit”.


  11. chris

    Hamilton is quite right. The plant is neither a yuca (cassava) nor a yautia/malanga (tannier/taro/dasheen). The yuca plant has spindly, stick like stalks covered in knobby nodules and topped with seven pointed compound leaves vaguely reminiscent of more loosely bunched, non-serrated leaves of the stick-icky. Yuca plants grow to between three feet for young ones all the way up to 6 or 7 feet. They occur, if left unchecked as a tangle of straight branches. When snapped in half, the light stalks have an airy, chambered white starchy looking pith.

    The yautia as it is known in Puerto Rico is called malanga in Cuba. The roots, technically corms, when clean and dry are sort of cover in a tough patchy, hairy skin. As Hamilton states these plants have an elephant ear type leaf. They too grow in bunches that resemble calla lily plant bunches.

    Yautia is often confused for taro, yet taro is from a different, yet remarkably similar species of plants. The general leaf type, stalks, are quite similar, yet the corms of taro are generally larger. Taro and yautia may be used interchangeably in all recopies with the exception of perhaps poi…what can I say; I just have not gotten around to trying it.

    In a side note, yauitas come in hundreds of varieties…blanca (white), amarallia (yellow), lila (lilac)…all are starchy and somewhat nutty. The larger the root the nuttier as a rule of thumb. The nutty I describe falls more in-line with nutty on the gamy end of the nutty continuum. In Puerto Rico yautia is generally used to refer to species with smaller, sweeter corms, while malangas produce larger, starchier, less sweet corms. Think of malanga of being closer in size to a taro. Malanga is also interesting as it has purple flecks in corm cross-sections.

    As for it being a batata, or white Puerto Rican sweet potato known as boniato in Cuba, this is not the case. Bata plants are low to the ground and have leaves similar to the yucca plant, but are in composite groups of five not seven leaves. The stalks are short, and not woody.

    From the looks of it, you have some type of a wild or mountain yam. Not yam as in candied yams or yams for sweet potato pie…those orange yams of the American south are actually sweet potatoes related to the batata. The yam you seem to have is a true yam of the genus Dioscorea. The dead give away is that it grows as a vine; all other viandas are shrub or bush like, and has heart shaped leaves. Your ñame as it is called in Puerto Rico may or may not be edible. The best people to ask are your local contacts who know about local foods. Gente del pueblo who know about machetes and all other things jibaro (traditional Puerto Rican mountain people).

    All the above-mentioned root vegetables are referred to as viandas in Puerto Rico. Generally speaking, viandas are root vegetables. They have been important parts of the Puerto Rican diet since…well forever. These are tropical subsistence crops. They fill in for rice and beans, and are the base for alcapurias and pasteles.

    Pasteles are basically Puerto Rican tamales made from root vegetable, or vianda, dough and wrapped in banana leaves for steaming.

    Celeriac or celery root know as apio also falls in this category as often do calabaza (west Indian pumpkin), known for its green and yellow skin, platanos verdes (green plantains), guineitos verdes (baby green bananas), and panapen sometimes just called pana (bread fruit) although none of these except apio is a root. Thus while many viandas are root vegetables, and in general, viandas are considered to represent the category of root vegetables in Puerto Rican and Dominican cuisine, not all viandas are roots or corms–perhaps a better definition is starchy vegetables.

    Viandas are generally used to make masas or doughs, made into tostones, chips, and mofongos, and served in escabeche–either warm or cold. The escabeche may be garlicky, it may be vinegary, and it may be both. Some escabeches have onions and peppers, and some just onions. King Mackerel, or sierra, en escabeche is a classic with viandas, as is any bacalao (cod fish) dish–especially during lent.

    Yet as Hamilton points out, sancocho is perhaps the most classic and quintessential vianda dish, aside from pasteles and alcapurrias (meat filled vianda fritters). Sancocho is a stew of several meats and viandas often including chunks of corn on the cob. Thick, rich and often with a bit of rooty funk, sancocho is truly 100 percent boricua. Part of the boricua citizenship test is knowing your viandas, being able to stomach pasteles, and being able to down bowls of sancocho. Seems like you two have gotten the hangeo and medalla requirements covered, now time to start working on the gastronomic requirements.

    More than you ever wanted to know about root vegetables.


  12. katrina kruse

    My neighbor Amparo says the thing WE have that looks just like that is Name. She identified the malanga root down our other hill and it looks like a houseplant. Yuca looks like a pointsettia (leaf and flower). Yautia I do not know! The Name on our hillside has purple flesh but it is usually white. The vines are triangular and it goes into the trees. Sometimes there are potato-like looking things hanging in the trees but you can follow them down to the ground and dig. You can also plant them and make more!

    Batata Amarilla- We went to a neighbors and they had baked some potatoes on the BBQ and said they were REALLY good. They looked like regular russets until you eat them, and they were really sweet – not really fibrous (like US sweet potatoes) and not orange or yellow like sweet potatoes or yams. Iwilda said they were Batata Amarilla. We went to Pueblo, Grande, Mr. Special off 2, everywhere looking for these things and finally went to the San German Mr. Special and bought one of every potato there was. It was the one labeled Batata Amarilla. Nothing special looking at all but really really good!

  13. Ana

    The second is “yautía” and the third is “ñame”. You boil them like a potato, drizzle some EVOO and is really yumi. If you have some “ensalada de bacalao” better.

Comments are closed.