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Yams can add flamboyant colour

The Asian yam, also called ube, turns desserts and dips, pies, ice cream and muffins a gaudy purple. At the same time, the tuber gives sweet dishes a special flavour which some people describe as a mixture of white chocolate, vanilla and coconut.

So what are yams?

Yams are the root tubers of a subtropical climbing plant. Botanically, they belong to the plant genus Dioscorea and include many different species, some of which are native to Asia and others to Africa. The tubers may be long and slim or club-shaped and they have a brown, usually hairy skin. Depending on the species, yams taste sweetish to slightly bitter; the pulp can be white, yellow, pink or purple.

In the Philippines, the popular yam is the water yam (ube) with its flesh ranging in colour from white to purple. It is a key ingredient in the traditional dessert "halo-halo" - a colourful mix of ice cream, tapioca, plantains, fruit and puffed rice. It’s also used in many other desserts. News of the photogenic desserts has arrived in Europe via the United States and social media are rapidly popularizing them.

Cooking with yams

West Africa is probably where most yams are eaten. The yellow- or white-fleshed yams grown here are one of the most important staple foods. For example, there’s a sort of porridge called "fufu" made from the tubers, which is served with spicy sauces and with meat and fish. In Western cooking, yams can be used much like a potato in casseroles, stews and soups. Pureed, it is a tasty side dish for fish and vegetables. Preparation is simple: wash the tuber, peel it and then dice, slice or cut it into sticks according to your recipe. Simmered in salted water, cut up yam will take from 10 to 20 minutes to cook. Small tubers can also be cooked whole.

Buying and storing

Yams are found all year round in well-stocked supermarkets, in Asian stores and sometimes at weekly farmers’ markets. The tubers should be firm, have a smooth skin and no mouldy spots. Yams will keep for a couple of days in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. They have a definite health bonus with very few calories, hardly any fat, but with useful amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium and vitamin C.


Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de