The yam is a tuber native to Central America and already cultivated and selected by the Incas, it is called American potato, precisely because of its origin, but also sweet potato, because of the flavor that compared to the common potato is much sweeter and somewhat reminiscent of “chestnut flavor”.
However, the name “potato” is wrongly attributed to this plant, which is not a variety of potato but a completely different crop, belonging to another botanical family. The potato plant (Ipomea batatas) is actually from the Convolvulaceae family and has in common strong similarities with the potato only at the tuber level.
It is a plant that requires a temperate climate and has a fairly long growth cycle, so it is not suitable for mountainous or particularly cold areas, but it also fears drought, so where the summer is very dry it be careful. Apart from these climatic requirements, it is fairly easy to grow and can be successfully and satisfactorily placed in a home garden. It does not have many enemies in terms of insects and diseases, so it is very suitable for organic cultivation.
How to plant yams
Suitable soil and soil preparation
how to sow
Potato growing operations in the United States
Culinary use and conservation
The American potato is a tuber, but it would actually be more correct to say tuberous root, which grows to a good size and usually has a yellow, red or purple rind depending on the variety. From the tuber come the roots that penetrate the ground and through a thinner upper head everything is connected to the stem of the plant. The aerial part of the plant is characterized by a long creeping stem, measuring from 1 to 4 meters, from which the leaves of the long stem depart, and at the time of flowering beautiful bells.
How to plant yams
The American potato is easy to plant, planting is done by planting the tuber directly in the field. After verifying that you have the right climate and soil conditions, after fertilizing and tilling the soil, you can start growing.
Although the plant can also be propagated by cuttings, it is best to start from the tuber for planting. Obtaining the yams will not be difficult, buying them from a garden well supplied with fruits and vegetables, once placed in the garden the first time it will be enough to store a little $0027 per seed from one year to the next.
The tubers germinate at temperatures above 15 degrees centigrade, so the time of planting should be chosen according to its climatic zone, adjusting to this indication. When the thermometer remains stable above 15 degrees and there is no risk of night frosts, you can start planting sweet potatoes. Since these climatic conditions are generally those of March or April, it is not advisable to delay planting too much, because the American potato takes 5 to 6 months to harvest.
Proper soil and soil preparation
Being a tuberous rhizome, its ideal soil should be:
- loose and not stony little prone to compaction, so as not to interfere with the swelling of the tuber.
- evacuation avoiding water stagnation which can cause disease.
- Rich in organic matter which makes the soil structure flexible and improves its ability to stay moist.
- Nutrient rich medium in particular potassium, useful for the formation of tubers and responsible for the sweet taste of yams.
The grower will have to work deeply with a good shovel and possibly incorporate organic amendments into the soil. Ideally, use compost or mature manure. A little ash can give the plant a welcome boost of potassium.
how to sow
The implantation is done in a similar way to that of the potato, that is to say by digging a furrow in which the tuber is deposited. The depth at which American potatoes are placed is about 10 cm.
When planting yams, keep in mind that the plant even grows up to 4 meters in length, so it is better to keep good distances between them. It is advisable to make rows at a distance of 70 cm, putting a tuber every 40 cm along the row.
Potato growing operations in the Americas
Spontaneous herbs. As the plant is a creeping plant, it is good to keep the yam bed weed free, with regular weeding. If necessary, competition can be reduced by using mulch or constructing raised supports that keep the creeper plant off the ground. Both techniques have other advantages: mulching keeps the soil moist and lifting the stem prevents fungal diseases.
Irrigation . Fresh potatoes require plenty of water, so it’s important to keep the soil from drying out with frequent, regular watering when needed, especially during the summer months.
Harvest time depends on the growth cycle of the chosen variety, usually around 5 months from the time the vegetable was planted. In any case, by observing the yellowing of the plant, we have a good signal to recognize when the right moment has arrived. The harvesting method is the same as for potatoes or Jerusalem artichokes: it is best to take a spade fork and open the ground near the plants by “uncovering” the tubers in the ground.
kitchen and storage
After harvesting the yams, we can store them the same way we store potatoes, keeping in mind, however, that this Central American plant requires slightly higher temperatures to sustain. In addition to the harvest, we can also save small tubers that we will use as seed next year.
In the kitchen, yams can be cooked just like classic potatoes: boiled, fried, roasted, fried. The sweet taste of this root vegetable can be overwhelming if not harmonized with other flavors in the recipe, so it is sometimes worth mixing it with traditional potatoes to moisten it.