Yam: Simple Facts, Uses You Want To Know


Yam (Dioscorea rotundata) and (Dioscorea cayennensis) is a staple food in Nigerian and West African cuisine, 

It is stated that “yam is food and food is yam” in several yam-producing regions of Nigeria. 

They are annual crops grown in Africa, 

They take the shape of huge tubers. 

Description Of Yam

This species of yam (Dioscorea rotundata) and (Dioscorea cayennensis) are annual crops from the Dioscoreaceae family.

The tubers are large and vary in size and shape,

Tubers length varies on average it can be between 25 cm (9.8 in) to 60 cm (23.6 in) with diameter about 10 cm (3.9 in) to 20 cm (7.8 in)

Yam tubers have thick and rough skin with brown to tan colour.

The inside or flesh is firm, dense and starchy,

Yam (Dioscorea rotundata) flesh is white in colour and yam (Dioscorea cayennensis) is yellow in colour.

The flesh colour can range from white, off white, cream or yellow.

It has a subtle sweet and earthy taste when cooked.

The tubers can weigh as much as 25 kg or even more, 

however they typically weigh between 2.5 and 5 kg each

The tuber should not be eaten raw.

Difference Between Yam (Dioscorea rotundata) And Yam (Dioscorea cayennensis)

Both are derived from the wild progenitor Dioscorea praehensilis.

They are closely related to each other but have slight differences.

The major difference is in the colour of the yam: the flesh of rotundata is white and that of cayennensis is yellow.

Nutritional Information

100 g of dry Rotundata Yam.

Energy 731.7kj
Moisture content 54.5%
Crude fat2.7%
Crude protein0.087%
Crude fiber0.7%
Carbohydrate 40.6%
Sodium 185.1 mg
Potassium 209.1mg
Calcium 132 mg
Magnesium 45 mg
Iron 81.8 mg
Copper 10 mg
Zinc 5.4 mg
Phosphorus 54 mg

Source: Research gate publication

Brief History Of Yam

In Africa, yam farming dates back to 11,000 years, 

yams are the principal agricultural commodities and important staple crops. 

They are highly valued cultural objects and important sources of wealth in West Africa.

A festival is conducted every year to commemorate its harvest, and they are used in fertility and marriage rites.

Yam in Nigeria

Yam in Nigeria is called Ji in Igbo, Isu in Yoruba and Doya In Hausa.

With more than 70–76% of the global yam production, Nigeria is by far the world’s largest producer. 

Based on data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 

Nigeria ranks as the leading producer of white yams in the world, accounting for 66% (approximately 50.1 million tons) of annual global production (FAO, 2021)

followed by Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin and Togo. 

Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Haiti and Colombia complete the top 10. 

Most yams producing countries are in Africa.

Taraba state is the highest producer of yam in Nigeria followed by Benue state.

Other Types of Yam

There are as many as 600 kinds of yam in the genus Dioscorea, 

Aside from Dioscorea rotunda and cayenensis three others are present in Nigeria making a total of five different types of yam.


For food

Yams are a nutrient-dense, multipurpose food that may be prepared in a variety of ways. 

Here are a few typical uses for yams:

  • Cooked and Mashed: Yams are cooked by boiling this is often served alongside with sauce, soup or stew. 
  • The boiled yam can also be mashed or pounded.
  • Roasted or Grilled: Yams that have been roasted develop a caramelized skin and release their inherent sweetness.
  • Fries and Chips: To create yam fries or chips, slice yams thinly into rounds or strips, then bake or fry them. 
  • Porridge or Pudding: Yams are used to produce pudding or porridge in several cultures.
  • Yam Flour: Yams can be processed to generate flour, which can then be used to make a variety of cuisines, such as bread, pancakes, and traditional African dishes like fufu.
  • Curries and Stir-Fries: Yams can be added to savoury recipes such as stir-fries and curries. Their starchy texture goes nicely with many different types of veggies, meats, and spices.
  • Baby Food: Yams, when mashed or pureed, make a healthy homemade baby food option. In addition to offering vital nutrients, they have a subtle sweetness that many babies find appealing.
  • Dried or Ground: In certain areas, yams are dried and processed into a powder that can be added to traditional recipes or used as a thickening ingredient for soups and stews.
  • Traditional and Cultural Dishes: Yams are a staple in many traditional cuisines and celebrations and have cultural importance in many areas. Yams are a staple food and an important part of many ceremonies in different civilizations.

See also how to plant yam

Hope this article was helpful?

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