Yummy Yellow Yam

Traveling through Jamaica’s rural areas is something I look forward with as much anticipation and excitement as a child waiting for a birthday or Christmas. It’s always a treat because I never know what I’ll see.

Several months ago, I was driving with three of my neighbors from Clarendon on the south central coast back to Montego Bay on the north west coast. Our trip took us through parts of Trelawny, St. Ann and Manchester – all well-known for different types of produce.

This particular Friday afternoon was bathed in the warm, golden glow of the setting sun as, at almost every turn, we saw farmers bringing their produce on donkeys and in small carts from the fields to the side of the road. Pickup trucks would take it the rest of the way to market.

Yummy Yellow Yam
Bringing yams from the field

There were mounds of yellow yams, mostly. But there were also otaheiti apples, Scotch Bonnet peppers, scallion, and thyme.

Most times we’d slow down just long enough for someone to stick their head out the window and ask, “How much a pound is the yellow yam?” or “Do you have any sweet peppers?”

Usually, price dictated whether we’d stop but when we saw this man with his son, something about him made us decide to buy. As soon as we found a good spot to park, all four of us jumped out of the car and ran across the road to choose a piece of yellow yam.

Yummy Yellow Yam
Yams for the market

They were weighing and sorting the freshly dug yam, the soil stubbornly clinging to each piece. They looked so delicious, it was difficult to know which to choose. So we let him decide.

Jamaica grows about eighteen varieties of yams, including yellow yam, St. Vincent, white, Lucy, and Negro. Yellow yam is by far the most popular. Trelawny, the parish we were in when we stopped to buy, accounts for up to 60% of the yams grown in Jamaica and almost half of what is exported — mostly to supply the growing demand in West Indian communities in the UK, US and Canada. (I was surprised to discover that Amazon sells yellow yam. [simpleazon-link asin=”B00I12V9IQ” locale=”us”]Roundleaf Yellow Yam imported from Jamaica (5 lb)[/simpleazon-link])

Yam adds potassium, protein, vitamins and folic acid to the diet and because it is packed with soluble fiber, it is suitable even for young children. Yams are also great for people with diabetes as it slows down the release of sugar into the cells.

Yams are denser in texture than the potato and can be eaten boiled (and mashed with butter, my favorite) or roasted. One of the things I look forward to on road trips is buying roasted yellow yam and saltfish from roadside vendors.

Most Jamaicans love yellow yam and have it at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is even the title of a popular folk song, When wi roas di yellow yam. Take a listen here.

When Olympic champion, Usain Bolt, won gold in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, his father was reported as saying his speed was due to his diet, specifically the yellow yam. Not surprising as Bolt is from yam country, Trelawny.

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12 comments on “Yummy Yellow Yam

  1. That is definitely eating locally when you buy it directly from the people who grew and harvested it. Those yellow yams look positively huge. I am too accustomed to whatever variety they sell in Texas supermarkets. The yams in Malaysia are different, and they always seem to taste wrong to me. I think I just need to tell myself that it’s not going to taste like the ones from home and that I should just enjoy it as if it were a completely different vegetable.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..Chiang Mai Sunday MarketMy Profile

  2. I’d love to try the yams they have there, Michele. I’m sure the soil there would give them different flavors and textures too, unlike what you’d get in Texas. BTW, I had no idea they grew yams in Texas.

  3. I love everything about this post! Buying straight from the ground sounds amazing and who’d have thought you could get yams on Amazon! Is there anything they don’t sell?! I also didn’t know there were so many different types and really enjoyed listening to the folk song. I love learning about the food from Jamaica on your blog Marcia as it’s somewhere I’ve never been but would very much like to. And lastly if yams are good enough for Usain Bolt they’re good enough for me!!
    Phoebe recently posted..Market Day in ProvenceMy Profile

  4. Sure looks and sounds delicious. And I didn’t know there were more than one type of yam. Tesco’s and Waitrose’s don’t stock that much variety unfortunately.

  5. Thanks, Phoebe. I was surprised about Amazon as well. They do seem to want to be everything to everyone.
    I’d love to see if the yam is any good — yam does have a shelf life, so I’m also wondering how they ‘treat’ it to make sure it’s still good by the time it’s sold.

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