Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Yam Day & Recipe

From Brad, Historical Interpreter:


This week we've had more and more signs that the FCMV harvest time is drawing near (remember, they've already celebrated the New Yam Festival in Nigeria and are now half-way through harvest season). In the meantime, before we harvest, I'll give you a little recipe that you can try at home, and is very popular for Igbo men working on the farm.

How do you know when it's time to harvest? Like potatoes (and many other crops), you should wait for the plant to start dying off. The tips of the vine will turn black, followed by the rest of the vine, and the leaves begin to wilt. Once that has covered most of the vine you should get the yams out of the ground as soon as possible before it completely dies. Yams are best preserved in dry, well-ventilated areas. If your plant has died, then it will begin to rot if there's a lot of moisture in the soil. In next week or two, we'll show you the best technique for harvesting, to prevent the crop from rotting. 

Notice how a lot of our plants are begging to show signs of wilting:

Here's Yam 1, standing at about 33" if you count the dead part, and almost 28" if you don't.  At 33", it's about the same as last week.   
 A closer look at what you should be checking for when you're about to harvest.
 Yam 2 is doing rather well with little sign of wilting, standing at 35".  That's about the same as last week.
 The twins, Yam 3and 4, are doing especially great.  I can't wait to see what their yams look like!
 The twins, about 38" tall:
We have a new yam to report! This is our 9th yam we've been able to sprout out of the dozen that we planted at the museum. They have fought poor soil and cold temperatures, and this one finally made it out of the ground. Better late than never!
So while you're checking your yams, weeding the mounds, or training the vines, it's always helpful if you bring a few yams to eat during a midday break. I'll show you one of the Igbo comfort foods the men often enjoy when on the farm.  Since these yams typically don't grow in the continental US, I'm substituting the yam with a regular ol' russet potato. The taste, color, and consistency are nearly identical. Here's what you need (it's SUPER simple because it's the MEN doing the cooking on the farm, something they don't often take to):

A couple russet potatoes, or any kind of baked potato you enjoy (not red potatoes!)
Dried chili peppers (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
2 c Palm Oil

Since you typically can't pick up palm oil at your local grocery store, try the nearest ethnic food place. It doesn't have to be an African shop; Hispanic food dealers carry it too. Also, get the RED palm oil! NOT the palm kernel oil! It makes a HUGE difference!

Next, wrap the potatoes in tinfoil and bake at 350 for an hour or until they soften. While they are baking you can make the palm oil dressing, which should take about 2 minutes. Pour the palm oil in a bowl and then add the dried chili peppers (make sure they're crushed!) and salt to taste. I like mine pretty spicy, so I'll put in about a half cup of peppers and a few pinches of salt--just about a teaspoon. Stir, and then your done! Now there's lots of time for you to get back to taking care of your yam farm while the food cooks!

After the potatoes are done, halve them lengthwise so the inside of the potato is an oval shape. With a spoon, add the dressing and eat away! It's easy. It's delicious. And next week I'll share an even more delicious recipe with you while we wait for harvest time.

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