Notes to broadcasters
The yam (Dioscorea spp.) is a climbing vine with large, edible, underground roots that are up to 3.3 metres long. The roots have many shapes and may be white, off white, or purple inside. Hundreds of species grow throughout the tropical and subtropical world. More than 60 varieties of yams are grown and eaten in the Pacific.
In the Pacific, the yam is a popular and important food crop. In some places yams are eaten every day, particularly when they are in season. In other places yams are eaten only on special occasions. No matter how and when they are used, yams are recognised for their delicious flavour and cultural values. They can easily be stored for many months. They are nutritious and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Yams may be mixed with many foods to make tasty dishes.
Grow yams in good quality soil, if possible in a place where a new garden is being made. The soil should be deep, loose, and well drained.
Use a small yam or the top of a large yam as planting material. Keep yams free of weeds for the first three months. When the vines start to grow, they are usually trained to grow up long poles. In smaller gardens, where there is not much space, they may be trained onto fruit trees. Some varieties of yams twist around a pole to the right, others to the left.
Yams are ready for harvesting after 9 – 12 months. They are harvested when the leaves are dry. It is possible to harvest up to a hundred times more yams than the amount that was planted.
Planting many kinds of yams that mature at different times makes them available for a longer time during the year. Once harvested, yams will keep well if stored in a dry place.
Yams are a good source of energy which the body needs to stay active. Yams also contain small amounts of Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and Vitamin C. Vitamin B1 helps the body use energy foods. Vitamin C helps to keep the body tissues strong, helps the body to use iron, and helps chemical actions in the body.
When eaten in large quantities (as they usually are in the Pacific), yams also provide some iron and niacin. Iron helps to keep blood healthy and niacin also helps the body to use energy foods.
Because yams don’t contain all the nutrients needed for good health, they should be eaten with other foods for a balanced diet. Health giving, protective foods such as dark green, leafy vegetables and body building foods such as fish, meat, peanuts, and milk should be eaten along with yams. That way the body will have enough of the different foods it needs to stay healthy and be strong. Mashed and added to other foods such as fruits, dark green vegetables, or fish, yams make good food for babies.
If there is any question as to whether a variety of yam is poisonous or not, ask your agricultural extension officer or people familiar with the different varieties before preparing the yam.
Eating local foods saves money. Research shows that yams are better for you than store foods such as white bread, because they provide plenty of energy and some protein as well as a variety of minerals and vitamins.
This script was prepared by Mr. McRei Kei, Rural Broadcast Officer, Development Program Section, National Broadcasting Commission, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
For more information about cooking yams and yam recipes please write to the Farm Radio Network and ask to receive Mr. Kei’s favourite yam recipes.