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Tropical Garden Grow Guide

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Cocoyam - March 2023


Botanic name: Xanthosoma violaceum
Araceae family
Plant type:
Sun exposure:
Soil preference: Sandy loamy damp soil, but does not grow well when waterlogged.

5.0 –7.0



Cocoyams are generally available year-round in the open-air markets and many supermarkets in Belize.

They are grown in many backyard gardens.  The tubers and leaves are edible.  The oval tubers are brown, anywhere from 2” to about 6” and covered with ridges and with spiky hairs.  Cocoyams are a staple food in many tropical areas of the world.  The peeled tubers are boiled, roasted, used to make porridge, chips, dumplings and may be pounded into flour or made into dumplings and dropped into soups and stews to cook. They are similar to potatoes in taste and texture.  The broad green leaves are nutritious, but must be soaked in cool clean water for at least 15 minutes before cooking them. 


To grow:  Plant anytime year-round.  They may produce better if they are planted at the end of the dry season and harvested by the next dry season.  Dawn Dean author of Gardening in Southern Belize advises to find a little sprouting cocoyam growing next to a big cocoyam plant to cut off and plant.  Or, you can cut up a tuber/corm that has an eye into about 2” pieces. Whatever method you use to start the seedling plant it about 3” deep.  Be sure to water until the plant is up and growing.  Cocoyam corms can be saved for several months in a dry well-ventilated area. 


Insects, animal and disease control: Pigs and other critters like to dig up and eat the ripe corms.  Cocoyams are sometimes prone to fungus, but are generally disease resistant.  Cut off the leaves that are shriveled.


To harvest: Check plants in about 9 months after the leaves have grown anywhere from 2' – 4'.  They may produce an attractive white flower.  Dig gently around the plant with a spade and your hands. 


Health benefits:  Cocoyams are rich in vitamin B1 (Thiamine), fiber and carbohydrates.  The cooked leaves contain vitamins A and C, potassium and calcium.


Recipe: Cocoyam root dinner porridge.


2 cocoyams about 4” each

1-2 Tbs coconut oil

1 medium onion

1 clove garlic

1 cup cocoyam leaves (The small ones are best.)  Be sure to soak the leaves in cool, clean water for 15 minutes before cooking.

Salt to taste

Optional: 1 small habenero pepper

2 cups water, plus more if needed.


Peel cocoyams, wash and cut into chunks, then set aside.

Blend pepper (if using) with chopped onion and garlic, fry in the coconut oil in a medium sauce pan until the onions are slightly browned, add the cocoyam to the cooked onion, garlic (and pepper if using), pour the 2 cups of water into the pan, bring to a boil, add the chopped cocoyams leaves and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add water, ¼ of a cup at  time, if necessary, and cook until the cocoyams are tender.