Yammy! Food of the Month – The Yam

Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on November 18, 2009 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Blog

I am a total foodie. I love food, I love to read about it, I love to look at it. I especially love to eat it. Thanksgiving is one of my absolute favorite holidays, pretty much due to the incredible menu. Most of all, the amazing yam. I love yams so much that on a near weekly basis to date I have fried, baked, mashed, pied, and even juiced (yes, raw!) them.
In keeping with this month’s rather fallish theme, I have chosen the yam for this installment of the Food of the Month Club.
It may surprise you, but contrary to popular belief yams are not the orange mash you’re probably enjoying this Thanksgiving. Those possibly marshmallow or almond crusted yumminess are really orange colored sweet potatoes, named to distinguish them from their yellow-fleshed sisters. True yams have flesh in colors varying from white to ivory to purple, and skin from white pink or brownish-black. They are long and cylindrical, often having little “toes” and a rough and scaly texture – and they can grow beyond 3 feet! To taste they are super starchy – earthy, hardy and hardly sweet at all.
The yam is one of the oldest plant foods known. As one story goes, while Portuguese slave traders were watching natives in Guinea dig up the tubers, they asked what they were; the reply, “nyami”, meaning something to eat. A few centuries worth of the game telephone, and we have yam.
The yam has been cultivated as far back as 10,000 BC in Africa and Asia, as well as tropical and subtropical regions of N and S America. The edible versions of the yam play a staple role in those regional diets, with the rest of the approx. 600 species being poisonous to humans. In fact, the alkaloids have been used to kill fish and to poison darts and arrows for hunting! Oh my yam, you are so yin and yang.
Speaking of yin and yang, the yam has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to affect organ function, particularly the kidney. It is also used to support the female endocrine system. Nutritionally, one cup of yam supplies us with almost 30% of our recommended daily intake of vitamin C and potassium, as well as manganese and dietary fiber. The levels of B6 found in yam have been shown in some research to help combat depression associated with PMS; it can also help reduce the risk of heart disease. The presence of manganese helps metabolise the carbohydrates, and is a cofactor in energy production and antioxidant defence. This helps to make yam a complex carb – the kind I like to eat!
During the months of October to December I stock up on this tuber. I make sure they are organic though, especially since this year the EWG Shoppers Guide to Pesticides reported conventionally grown yams to be one of the 12 foods most frequently containing pesticide residues.
Finally, here’s how I love to enjoy my yummy yams this month. Try my recipe out, and enjoy!
Sage`s Yams
4 medium yams
3 (2-inch) strips orange zest
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons peeled and finely chopped ginger root
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Peel and halve the yams crosswise. Cut each half lengthwise into 4 wedges. Place the yams in a baking dish that will hold them in a single layer. Tuck the orange zest and cinnamon sticks among the yams.
In a bowl, whisk together the orange juice, maple syrup, lemon juice, ginger, and salt. Pour the mixture over the yams. Bake for 1 1/4 hours, basting every 15 minutes, until the yams are tender and glazed and the pan juices are syrupy (use a spatula to turn the potatoes now and then.) Remove the orange zest and cinnamon sticks before serving.
Yield: 4 servings
Adapted from: The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen
Yammily, Sage
* You’re all in my Food of the Month Club, so email me your pics and recipes! Prizes for the pics I post!
Photo Credit: coyotejack
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Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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