Purple ube yams are the most beautiful roots in the world… though you wouldn’t know it by looking at their exteriors.
I harvested that purple ube yam root from beneath the pollarded sweetgum tree I use as a living yam trellis.
Here’s what I mean about it being the most beautiful root in the world:
That’s just a little corner piece I broke off.
Purple ube yams are the geodes of the plant world.
They’re also used to make some of the most entertainingly colored desserts you can imagine, as I first illustrated in my big post on how to grow yams.
Quit getting them mixed up with sweet potatoes. They’re not sweet potatoes! NO NO NO!
The sweet potato people will tell you this. The truth is out there.
If you’re not growing yams, why not? Purple ube yams in particular are just fun.
Purple ube yam is grown just like the regular white types. Here’s how to grow ’em.
How To Grow Purple Ube Yam
Get Your Starts
First, get yourself a purple ube yam root or a bulbil.
This is the hard part. Try ebay or your local permaculture or gardening group.
If you have a full root, divide it up like this into minisetts. If you have bulbils, you don’t need to cut them up.
Planting Your Yams
Last year I planted my yam pieces into a big pot during the winter, then transplanted them out to my food forest when they sprouted in the spring.
You can also just plant them in place anytime from fall through spring. I plant yam roots or bulbils just an inch or two down. That’s enough to keep the frosts from getting them.
Place yam starts at the base of something they can climb. A tree, a fence, a trellis – anything they can grab. You’ll be surprised at how vigorous the vines can be. You can plant them in a somewhat shady spot and they’ll climb a tree up into the light and help themselves to the sunshine.
Keeping Yams Going
You really don’t need to do much. Just throw some compost on them if you think of it. Water when you remember.
Harvesting Your Yams
Yams usually go dormant in the winter (or freeze down) and that’s the time to start digging. I wait until the second year for bigger yams. That’s right: I plant my yams two years before I hope to eat them.
This really isn’t a big deal. It’s not like they need any care.
Purple ube yam isn’t as vigorous as the yellow or white yams in my experience. The roots are maybe half the size of the monster white ones. Dig carefully. There’s one big root at the base of the vine and it often gets bigger as it goes beneath the surface like an iceberg.
During the first year, your yam vine will produce a few bulbils in the fall. The second year, it will make a lot more. Here’s me harvesting purple ube yam bulbils from a 2+ year old vine:
Purple ube yams are really a marvelous and beautiful crop that’s certain to impress your friends and family.
Now I need to try making that purple dessert…