Yams are perennial herbaceous vines cultivated for the consumption of their starchy tubers. Yam as the common name includes some plant species in the genus Dioscorea that form edible tubers. They are grown in many temperate and tropical regions of the world, including Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
They are native to Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Some yams are also invasive plants, often considered a “noxious weed”, outside cultivated areas. Yam tubers vary in size from that of a small potato to over 60 kg (130 lb). Yams are starchy tubers that have an almost black bark-like skin and white, purple or reddish flesh and come in many varieties. The tubers can be as small as regular potatoes or grow upwards of five feet long. The edible tubers are thick, elongated, and cylindrical in shape with a slight tapering at one end and the brown to tan skin is rough and scaly. Underneath the tough skin, the cream-colored flesh is dense, dry, and starchy. When cooked, West African yams have a mild, earthy flavor with a subtle sweetness. West African yams, botanically classified as Dioscorea rotundata, are the tubers of creeping, leafy vines that can reach over twelve meters in length and are members of the Dioscoreaceae family. Considered to be one of the most important crops in Africa, West African yams are grown in the “yam belt” which is a fertile region of land spanning across Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Benin. This belt produces over ninety percent of the yams sold globally and is one of the region’s primary cash crops. West African yams are favored for their hunger sustainment, mild flavor, easy-to-grow nature, and long storage life, and are used in a wide variety of cooked applications.
These are: Dioscorea rotundata (white guinea yam),
Dioscorea alata (yellow yam),
Dioscorea bulbifera (aerial yam),
Dioscorea esculant (Chinese yam) and Dioscorea dumetorum (trifoliate yam). Out of these, Dioscorea rotundata (white yam) and Dioscorea alata (water yam) are the most common species in Nigeria.
West African yams are believed to be native to West Africa, and artifacts have been discovered which have led researchers to estimate that yams have been used since 50,000 BCE. Yams are adopted as a staple ingredient in everyday cooking in homes and at events.
There are oral traditions about the origin of yam in various cultures and ethnic groups. The Igbo believe God gave them yam as the “King of Crops” which makes them to revere yams, to the extent of celebrating new yam festivals. During these festivals, which take place in August and September, yams are offered to ancestors and the earth goddess as a sign of respect and thanks. In addition, the festival is celebrated with music, dancing, and drumming along with fresh servings of fufu, soups, and stews.
Yams are a good source of vitamin C – 27% of the daily value for fighting infections such as colds and flu and quick wound healing, anti-aging, strong bones, and healthy immune function. It also provides good amounts of fiber, potassium, manganese, and metabolic B vitamins.
West African yams contain vitamins A, B6, and C, fiber, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, and copper. Nutritionists reveal that the amount Per 100 grams (1 cup) or cubes (150 g) is 177 Calories.
Yam also cotains % Daily Value Total Fat 0.3 g
%Saturated fat 0.1 g
%Polyunsaturated fat 0.1g
Monounsaturated fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
%Sodium 14 mg
%Potassium 1,224 mg 34
%Total Carbohydrate 42 g14
%Dietary fiber 6 g 24
%Sugar 0.8 g
Protein 2.3 g4%
Vitamin B – 620%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Yams aren’t grown from seeds like most other vegetables – they grow from slips, which are derived from the sprouts of adult yams. However, there are other ways to propagate yams:
Step 1: To propagate yams from minisetts, get a fresh yam and cut it into pieces while ensuring you have a good piece of skin on each one from which the new growth will emerge. …
Step 2: Dip the Pieces in Ashes. …
Step 3: Plant Your Yams.
Depending on the specie, true yams need upwards of 6 months to a year of frost-free climate before harvest. (sweet potatoes are ready in 100-150 days).
STORAGE/ PRESERVING YAM
Properly stored, raw yams will last for about 5 to 7 days at normal room temperature. To maximize the shelf life of yams, store in a cool (45-55° F; warmer than the refrigerator, but colder than normal room temperature) dark area; under those storage conditions, yams will last about 1 month.
Whole, raw tubers will keep 4-6 months when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place, and once cooked, the tuber will keep 2-3 days when stored in the refrigerator.
West African yams can also be cooked, fried, baked, or roasted, mixed with meats and cooked vegetables, or they can be dried and ground into a flour for extended use.
They are said to be toxic when raw and must be cooked prior to consumption. There are various ways to eat boiled yam which include:
*With Avulu – thick biter leaf soup
The tubers are commonly boiled, sprinkled with palm oil and served with eggs, or they are boiled and mashed into a dough-like paste known as fufu and is served with soups and stews. The starchy tubers can be used as a substitute in recipes calling for potatoes and can also be grated into fritters or sliced and mixed into biscuit dough. West African yams pair well with caramelized onions, pine nuts, leeks, eggs, tomatoes, green beans, peanuts, and meats such as poultry, beef, and lamb.
Yam can as well be eaten with oil when roasted. The native Igbo paste known as “ncha” also pairs very well with roasted yam
Cut the yams into 1/3″ slices. If they’re cut too thin, they may break apart while cooking.
Melt butter and add sliced yam tossing to coat with sugar and spices.
Cook low and slow, but make sure the sauce is gently bubbling before covering.
When the tubers are cooked and the sauce is thick, add the last three ingredients. Simple and scrumptious!
*Tip: If you want the tubers to have a candied crispy look around the edges, just skim off some of the sauce while cooking, so that the yams don’t actually get too soft and boiled. You can always save the extra sauce to pour over leftovers, or add back in if the sauce reduces too much!
CONCLUSION: ARE YAMS GOOD FOR YOU?
Your guess is as good as mine to that question. I boldly say “yes” if you consider other personal health peculiarities. Yams are full of nutrients especially vitamins A, B5, B6, potassium and manganese. They contain fiber and are not particularly high in calorie. Yams may have a positive impact on digestion due to the fiber as well as a benefit to your eye sight from the vitamin A. Yams can be part of a healthy diet.