Yam (Dioscorea spp.)
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Yam is the common name for some species in the genus Dioscorea (family Dioscoreaceae). These are perennial herbaceous vines cultivated for the consumption of their starchy tubers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. They are used in a fashion similar to potatoes and sweet potatoes. There are hundreds of cultivars among the cultivated species.
The word yam comes from Portuguese inhame or Spanish ñame, which both ultimately derive from the Wolof word nyam, meaning “to sample” or “taste”, in other African languages it can also mean “to eat” e.g. yamyam and nyama in Hausa.
Yam tubers can grow up to 2.5 meters in length and weigh up to 70 kg (150 pounds).
The vegetable has a rough skin which is difficult to peel, but which softens after heating. The skins vary in color from dark brown to light pink.
The majority of the vegetable is composed of a much softer substance known as the “meat”. This substance ranges in color from white to bright orange in ripe yams.
Yams are a primary agricultural commodity in West Africa and New Guinea. They were first cultivated in Africa and Asia about 8000 B.C.
Yams are important to this day for survival in these regions. The tubers can be stored up to six months without refrigeration, which makes them a valuable resource for the yearly period of food scarcity at the beginning of the wet season.