Mystery Plant: This tuber brings nutrition and history lessons to the table | Home & Garden

Mystery Plant: This tuber brings nutrition and history lessons to the table | Home & Garden

They don’t usually let me go to the grocery store except it’s simply to get a newspaper or a bag of ice, as a result of I at all times find yourself spending an excessive amount of time there.

Not precisely shopping for issues, however simply taking a look at stuff and studying the labels. Vegetable juices, imported beer, macaroni, the roasted chickens, sushi, doughnuts within the bakery part, mustard (what number of sorts of mustard ought to there be?), rice, syrup, milk, scorching sauce, sweet, cosmetics, cereal, seaside stuff, canine toys — it goes on and on. And, I’ve give you a concept that trendy grocery shops have two societal capabilities: satisfying our dietary and on a regular basis wants, in addition to our up-front leisure necessities. In truth, I’m a type of fortunate individuals who can spend hours wanting on the stuff; it’s method cheaper than going to a film, in any case. Plus, there’s all that people-watching.

And then, in fact, there’s the resident produce part. Wow. Locally grown peaches and figs, plantains from Guatemala, and strawberries from Chile. Persimmons from Asia and lychees from Australia. Beautiful, recent fruit and veggies — an excessive amount of enjoyable for a botanist. It’s like being in a backyard. You by no means know what you may run into in your subsequent journey.

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The factor on this image is the edible underground a part of a tropical species, one that could be a member of the “true” yam household, Dioscoreaceae — to not be confused with the opposite yam household, the identical because the morning-glory household (Convolvulaceae), which supplies us candy potatoes, usually known as “yams.” (Yes, the candy potato is expounded to our morning-glories.)

Our Mystery Plant produces high-climbing, thorny vines, native to western and central Africa, locations which have an extended wet season. The vines produce engaging darkish inexperienced, heart-shaped leaves, and tiny flowers, each female and male. This underground half, which will be fairly large, is a tuber, that means a swollen, food-storage stem (very similar to an Irish potato). An enormous variety of this stuff are grown as a crop and consumed annually within the Caribbean nations, the place it’s one thing of a staple, together with different “root” greens. It arrived within the New World as part of the slave commerce, and is now generally consumed worldwide all through the tropics.

Although the fibrous exterior of the tuber is brown, the inside is easy, and pale yellow. The nutritionists inform us that these tubers have a really excessive starch content material, and so most likely wouldn’t be superb for a low-carb weight loss plan. Nevertheless, they’re stuffed with nutritional vitamins and minerals, fairly nutritious as a peeled, cooked vegetable, and positively value a strive when sautéed, baked, boiled or steamed. It’s versatile by itself or as a element of savory stews or become fritters. If you need to be adventurous and take a look at one, ensure that you prepare dinner it totally; the uncooked flesh incorporates a whole lot of little crystals, which will be irritating.

For extra data, right here’s a hyperlink to a web-based free-to-use data database and related web site for these eager about edible and helpful vegetation:

Answer: “Ñame” (pronounced “NYAH-may”), “Jamaican yam,” Dioscorea cayennensis.

John Nelson is the retired curator of the A.C. Moore Herbarium on the University of South Carolina in Columbia. As a public service, the herbarium provides free plant identifications. For extra data, go to, name (803) 777-8196 or e-mail [email protected].

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