Karande or Air Potatoes/yam are true yams that belong to the yam family.
Growing up every time we visited my hometown in Kokan my dad would always pick up karande from the market. He would then boil them with a dash of salt and have them as a snack and especially had them during fasts. I on the other hand couldn’t enjoy their earthy distinct taste and I disliked the occasionally bitter ones that came in the lot. But that’s about me and my memories of Karande. Now for the technical info-
Karanda/karande/ kadu karanda( marathi)
Air/vine potato or yam or bitter yam ( English )
Unlike regular potatoes which grow underground, Karanda grows as a bulbil on perennial air potato vines and hence is also known as vine potatoes.
It is almost round with warts on the surface and is the size of a medium potato that fits into the palm like a golf ball.
The peel is slightly tougher unlike regular potatoes and the inner flesh is more yellow-brown and grainy.
Karanda has a distinct earthy taste of its own. In simple terms, it is an acquired taste. At times it can be bitter which you may have to discard.
Karanda or air potatoes are local to India. They are mainly available in monsoons in the local markets in Kokan and you can purchase them by weight.
Only a few specific vendors at specific places sell it in Mumbai Markets (like Dadar market, Borivali market, etc) and you won’t find them sold online.
I recently saw 2 varieties of these Air potatoes at a food event by OOO farms- kali ( black) and safed ( white) Karande/Air potatoes.
Nutritional Facts & Medicinal Use
Karanda has nutrients like protein, fat, crude fiber, and phytochemicals. They are also rich in sodium, saponin, and oxalate but to get the maximum nutritional benefit from Karanda preparing it properly is the key.
Dioscorea bulbifera bulbils are used in treating tumors, as well as wounds. It is also used in treating hernia, hair lice, and skin infections. It is also used in cases of piles, and gut issues like dysentery, apart from ulcers, cough, diabetes, asthma, and cancer.
Wash the Karanda thoroughly and put it into the pressure cooker and pressure cook it with a pinch of salt. That is the easiest way to consume them-boiled. But since air potatoes are a great substitute for potatoes you could try some of these variants too-
- Gravy/ dry vegetable
- Fasting foods like boiled karanda, karanda bhaji etc
While Karande/air potatoes are one of the lesser-known ingredients from Maharashtra there are many more. So make sure to read more about other lesser-known vegetables like Takla, Phodshi, Dragon stalk yam, etc.