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Versatile Jamaican Yam
Your Questions, Answered

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jamaican yam - yellowJamaican Yam Photo

Us Jamaicans talk a lot about yams and take it for granted that everyone knows what it is. So today, I'll grab the opportunity to answer some of the most popular questions about Jamaican yams.

Video: This is how Jamaicans roast yam! 

Click Here to Jump To The Video Below And Watch It

And I'll start by answering the first and most obvious question...

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What Is A Jamaican Yam?

Jamaican yam, is a vegetable that is cultivated and consumed for it tasty and nutritious root tuber. 

Many refer to it as Jamaican yams, but in truth, yams are not unique to Jamaica, as according to Wikipedia, it is found in many other temperate and sub tropical regions of the world.

But us Jamaicans, both home and abroad will tell you that our yams are uniquely special, like our Blue Mountain Coffee, in many ways.

Some are waxy, some soft and some are sweet. And they even come in an exciting variety of colours (behind the skin), some are yellow, some are white and some even purple!

I've never tasted yams from other countries but from what I hear, ours has a distinct taste, even across the varieties.

And wait until we tell you about its potent nutritional benefits!

Health Benefits Of Yam

Jamaican yellow yam

Have you heard the now popular talk that the prowess of the Jamaican sprinters have been linked to yams? 

I understand it started when Usain Bolt's dad, my namesake, attributed yam to his son's success!

And you don't have to search long to find scores of articles and theories linking yam to potency on the web.

Outside of that though, yam has a rich combination of nutritional benefits. The chief of which is carbohydrates.

According to Marsha N. Woolery ( a registered dietitian/nutritionist) in her article in the Jamaica Gleaner, yam provides:

  • fibre, starch and sugar
  • potassium
  • protein
  • vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), folic acid, and pantothenic acid.

    These vitamins help us to get energy from carbohydrates and fat.

How Do You Cook Yams?

As you will see below, we roast it. And this is perhaps one of the most preferred ways to cook yams here. Well, certainly mine.

But, outside of roasting, which is not as convenient either, we also boil it, fry it and bake it. 

And the procedures are quite simple for all. 

For Roasting

  1. Wash the yam to remove excess soil
  2. Dry it
  3. Place on a grill with medium fire
  4. Turn periodically to avoid overburn (see the video below)
  5. Use a knife or corn skewer to test its readiness
  6. When complete, scrape the burnt area or peel, then cut and serve with your favourite protein.
jamaican yamPhoto: Jamaican Yam - Roasted On Coal Fire

For Boiling:

  1. Put water to boil with salt to taste
  2. Wash or scrape the excess soil off
  3. Remove the outer area (skin) by peeling with a kitchen knife
    Remember to be careful as the juice from the peel itches when touch your skin. If you are inexperience, use a glove.
  4. Cut the yams in serving sizes and place in boiling water
  5. Cover and cook for approximately 15-30 minutes (until tender)
  6. Note that some yams will take a shorter or longer time to cook based on the type, for example, white yams (softer) vs yellow yams (harder)
  7. Remove from pot and serve.

Can Yams Go In The Fridge?

Interesting question. From my research, the jury is still out on this, and I'm speaking to the uncooked, unpeeled yam here.

Some suggest that it should be stored in a cool dry area, allowing it to last up to 3 weeks without losing its taste, while others suggests that you store it in the fridge.

My personal take is that both works - but placing it in the fridge works best.

As I write I have some that we got two weeks ago from my wife's parents. It is still sitting in the kitchen on a tray. And I also have some at the bottom of the refrigerator for a few weeks as well.

If I am pressed though, I'd recommend the refrigerator.
That way it also maintains a more constant temperature and that aids in its longer preservation.

Of course, if cooked, it it should clearly be stored in the fridge and should last for up to three days.

How Is Yam Different From Sweet Potato?

This was funny!

I only learned recently that some North American families and some Canadians, considered yam to be sweet potato, and vice versa.

Both however, although root tubers, are distinctly different.

They both have a healthy array of nutritional benefits, including fibre, but sweet potatoes in general, tend to have a higher concentration.

Can Diabetics Eat Yam?

According the publication by Marsha N. Woolery, Jamaican dietitian, the fibre in yam slows the release of sugar or glucose from the blood into the cells.

Hence she suggested that persons with diabetes should consume yam to achieve better blood sugar control.

Can Yams Help You Lose Weight?


Ms Woolery also noted that it increases satiety or makes you feel full for a longer period of time.

It is therefore recommended for persons who are trying to lose or maintain weight because they will feel hungry less often. 

Before you go off eating yams like crazy though, remember, everything in moderation. Yam, when digested, is sugar (glucose) and too much sugar in the body is stored as fat.

That fat may increased cause weight, especially without adequate physical activity or a balanced diet.

Is Jamaican White Yam Good For You?

Another interesting question!

White yam packs much of the nutritional components of other varieties of Jamaica. We have not found any evidence to suggest that it is not good for you.

In fact, Dr. Diane Robertson, herbal consultant, in an article in the Jamaica Gleaner on 11/17/2004, titled, Managing Menapause, suggested that White yam (Dioscorea villosa), which is a phyto-progesteronic, assists in improving liver and kidney functions as well.

jamaican white yamA Jamaican White Yam: Funny how they said Jamaican yams is the fuel for the sprinters and this one looks so much like a sprinter's foot :-)

Versatile Jamaican Yam

Historically, we used yam as the main staple for our dishes, but more and more, we are discovering and creating new and exciting recipes - and new ones seems to be emerging everyday - yes from our very our yam.

Today we have:

  • Yam Pudding
  • Yam Porridge
  • Yam Casserole
  • Yam Salad
  • Yam Noodles
  • Yam Fries
  • Yam Balls
  • Yam Rice and even...
  • Yam Cake!

So with Jamaican Yam, the sky is certainly the limit.
Go for it, please don't let my love for roasted yam limit you :-)

Where Can I Buy Jamaican Yams?

Jamaican yams at marketYams on sale at the Charles Gordon market in Montego Bay.

Oh how times have changed!

Once upon a time, Jamaica enthusiasts overseas and those in the diaspora could only taste the 'good ole' Jamaican yam when they visit home.

But with the advent of the internet, both local and overseas customers can get their yams delivered to their doorsteps!

If you are overseas though, I'd suggest that you first check the nearest Jamaican or Caribbean (West Indian) supermarket. I understand they sometimes you mind more Jamaican stuff there than even back here in Jamaica!

If that fails, get online.

One popular option is Amazon USA. You can check their prices on Jamaican yams here

Video: Roast Yam - Jamaican Style!

Turn up your speakers then Click the Play Button to watch it on

So now you've learned about yam. Have you thought about breadfruit and Jamaican breadfruit pudding? Try it, you'll love it!



Pages Related To Jamaican Yams

Go to Food From Jamaica from Jamaican Yam
Return to My Island Jamaica from Jamaican Yam

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