PURPLE YAM – HOW WE BECAME FRIENDS
Dioscorea alata sp. Dark Night St. Vincent purple yams – When I was a little girl, we lived up in our own slice of Eutopia. Nestled in the cool mountains of the Cockpit country in pristine Trelawny, Jamaica was our slice of paradise and on it, we planted.
My parents had created a lovely backyard production of corn (Maize), callaloo (Amaranthus), cucumbers (Cucumis), Otaheite apples (Syzygium Malaccense), sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum), dasheen (Colocasia), badu (Colocasia), tomatoes(Solanum), sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa), Jamaican Almonds (Terminalia catappa) and so much more. Among this lot was one root of Dark Night St. Vincent Purple yam (Dioscorea alata sp.).
DIOSCOREA ALATA – SURPRISE AT THE MARKET
We’d had the rare sighting of the dark night St. Vincent purple yam at the market. It was piled in a display and mom had purchased a piece from the woman who owned the stall. After cooking some, I guess she was inspired to replicate it because she had dad procure a post to support the rampant vine that would dance up from the earth with seemingly unmatched passion and she planted the head of the yam we had bought.
The vine was glorious and beautiful with it’s purple and green, heart-shaped leaves shining in the sun as it wound its’ purple tendrils up and down and about the post it had been provided. It hung gracefully, a thick mass of purple and bright green hearts all about that the post was no longer visible by the time the plant had matured.
DARK NIGHT HARVEST
I remember us attempting to dig up the massive root it had produced without breaking it or separating any of the pieces. We failed. It was simply too much. I don’t know if it was because it had been grown in what was known as the yam parish of Jamaica (where most of the yam production takes place) but it was massive! That was the day I became entranced by the dark night St. Vincent purple yam – Dioscorea Alata.
It wasn’t my first experience with the purple yam. I’d eaten it many times before. It was, my first time growing it and I guess just being a part of the process and watching it flourish so well under our care made it exceptional for me. What I hadn’t known then was that the rest of the world was yet to catch on, but boy, did they!
DIOSCOREA ALATA PURPLE YAM: THE SUPERFOOD
It doesn’t surprise me now that it is among the long list of things I was blessed to grow up with that the world now refers to as Superfoods. With the number of superfoods that have been part of my diet all my life, I’m just waiting for a big “S” to be burned into my chest any day now; forget the cape… Seriously speaking though, Dioscorea alata is truly a treasure and I’m going to give you all the reasons why you want this amazing Dark Night St. Vincent yam and simply don’t know it yet.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF PURPLE YAM: DIOSCOREA ALATA
I bet you didn’t know that the Dioscorea alata Dark Night St. Vincent yam was rich in riboflavin, vitamin B6, thiamine, vitamin A, niacin, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, and Vitamin K. It also offers up zinc, protein and iron. One serving could provide up to 50% of your daily recommended consumption of fiber!
PROTECT YOUR BODY WITH PURPLE YAM
Consuming the dark night St. Vincent purple yam can help you counteract infections such as flu and colds and speeds up the healing process, immune function. It also helps you build stronger bones. In fact, members of the Asian community have been known to traditionally apply Dioscorea alata in a poultice to wounds to sooth and speed up the healing process. It has also been used as a holistic way of treating depression If that’s not a superfood, I don’t know what is!
That’s not all! Dioscorea alata Dark night St. Vincent purple yams are very rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants, on a whole, play an integral role in protecting us from the inside, building strong bodies and extending the years of long, healthy, enjoyable lives.
OF ANTIOXIDANTS & DIOSCOREA
Antioxidants called anthocyanins -which dark night St. Vincent purple yams provide in abundance – are specifically linked to a range of health benefits. Purple yams can help you maintain a healthy urinary and respiratory system and the high manganese content increases your energy level and can positively impact not just your mood but your productivity.
According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), previous research has linked anthocyanins to a wide variety of health claims, including increased longevity, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention and dementia. A study in the European Journal of Nutrition found it improved brain power in children between the ages of seven to ten years old. Additionally, the pace of converting the carbohydrates present in Dioscorea Alata into sugar is very sluggish which helps to curb the increase of blood sugar level in the human body and makes it a perfect food for diabetics to add to their diet.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE DIOSCOREA ALATA PURPLE YAM PLANT
This thing grows more rapidly than anything you’ve ever seen! I knew I was going to share this with you guys but I still made a few videos so could follow the journey of our Dark Night St. Vincent purple yam plants this season because I knew some of you simply would not believe me unless you saw it for yourselves. Dioscorea alata is no joke. Our vines will put out anywhere from one to five feet of new growth weekly!
PLANTING PURPLE YAM
Needless to say, the dark night St. Vincent purple yam is a tropical. It thrives naturally in warm, dry areas with moderate rainfall and proper drainage. As a matter of fact, our farmers would always plant the yams in a mound instead of a hole. We’ve had clients grow them outdoors in subtropical regions. We’ve also had others grow them in huge pots, greenhouses or start them indoors each year and transplant after the last threat of frost. All of those are options you can exercise depending on where you live.
The good thing is, since we’ve seen it ourselves, done it ourselves and had clients share their testimonials with us, you know it’s possible. I mean, unless you’re in Greenland somewhere kissing the North Pole, it’s possible to grow this plant successfully wherever you are. Ensure you’re able to provide proper aerial support. It is not a runner but a climber.
DIOSCOREA ALATA: BEHAVIOR
Dioscoea alata doesn’t sprawl unless untrained which is why it’s ideal to provide a harbor that’s mostly vertical. One year, we grew ours in the greenhouse and it literally grew like a garland along the rails and supporting beams down the center of the greenhouse roof. It was gorgeous though and we enjoyed the experiment. For the clients in subtropical regions, I’m told the vine dies back in the fall and the roots produce new vines in the spring. Those in colder regions save bulbils from their mature vines for planting the following spring and start them indoors to get a head-start on the growing season. As always, you know if you ever have any questions or desire assistance with anything at all we are at your disposal.
PURPLE YAM HARVESTTIME
So when we’ve dug up this thing what do we do with it? Well, firstly, it needs to be cooked before consumption. Eating raw Dioscorea of any kind is bound to give you an itch. It is highly unlikely you will enjoy that so please, don’t do it. You can peel the skin away or wash the dirt away thoroughly before slicing or chopping and boiling, steaming, baking, roasting, grilling, or stewing.
DIOSCOREA ALATA USES
After the yam has been cooked the possibilities are endless. You can spice it and make a stir fry. You can make ice-cream. You can serve slices of purple yam with your favorite meat or seafood dishes. You can make pies, cookies, cakes, punches, smoothies, sauces… the possibilities are truly endless! Feel free to experiment with other traditional dishes you may have and share them with us! You won’t regret adding this versatile and beneficial conversation piece to your table. Happy gardening!