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Inventory, 10 lbs : 1.76
This item was last sold on : 07/30/21
Yamaimo roots widely vary in size, shape, and appearance, depending on variety and growing conditions, but in general, the roots bear an elongated, cylindrical shape with blunt, curved ends. The root’s skin is thin, tough, rough, and covered in root-like hairs, appearing in shades of light brown, tan, to gold-brown. Underneath the surface, the flesh is dense, hard, aqueous, slippery, and white, bearing a crisp and crunchy consistency. Despite the flesh’s crisp texture when whole, when grated, the root transforms into a paste-like consistency due to its high mucilage and starch content. Yamaimo roots are known for their sticky, slippery texture, and the flesh has a subtly sweet, earthy, and neutral flavor, sometimes being regarded as bland. The root is often paired with other ingredients to improve taste and is more favored for adding texture rather than flavor.
Yamaimo roots are available in the fall through spring.
Yamaimo roots, botanically classified as Dioscorea opposita, are elongated, rare Asian tubers belonging to the Dioscoreaceae family. The roots grow below ground, producing climbing vines above ground, and are an Asian species valued for their starchy, sticky flesh. The name Yamaimo was derived from the Japanese words “yama,” meaning “mountain,” and “imo,” meaning “potato,” a descriptor used for the root’s native growing region. The tubers are also known by several other names throughout Asia, including Japanese Mountain Yam, East Asian Mountain Yam, Huai Shan, and Cham Ma. Yamaimo roots are one of the few tubers that can be consumed raw, shaved as an edible garnish, or used as a topping over sweet and savory dishes. The ancient roots have also been traditionally cultivated for their high starch content and binding consistency. There are many different varieties of the roots, ranging in length and color, but the roots are used similarly to potatoes or yams when cooked. In local markets, the long roots are often sold in pieces to reduce food waste.
Yamaimo root is a good source of potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, B vitamins to ensure healthy cells, and vitamin C to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. The roots also provide fiber to regulate the digestive tract, manganese to produce connective tissues, and iron to develop the protein hemoglobin for oxygen transport through the bloodstream. In addition to vitamins and minerals, Yamaimo root contains mucin, a nutrient that gives the flesh its slimy texture. Mucin is believed to assist in digestion and works to protect the immune system against disease.
Yamaimo root has a neutral, mild flavor and an unusual mucilaginous consistency, primarily used raw or as a binding ingredient in cooked preparations. The root is typically peeled and grated over salads, shredded into soups, or shaved over rice and noodle dishes such as soba. Yamaimo root is one of the only yams that can be consumed raw and provides a crunchy element to sushi and sashimi. It is important to note that the liquid within the Yamaimo’s skin can cause irritation, creating an itchy sensation. This reaction is due to calcium oxalate, and each individual will react with varying degrees of irritation. Chefs sometimes wear gloves to protect against the itchiness, but if irritation occurs, running hands under hot water will help reduce the sensation. Yamaimo root can also be shredded and fried into crispy pancakes, sliced into thin pieces and fried, served as a sticky side dish, or pan-fried and added to miso soup. The bland root should be mixed with robust spices, sauces, or other ingredients to create a flavorful dish. In Japan, Yamaimo root is incorporated into a spongy dessert known as kyushu. The cake-like confection is a famous dessert served across the country and has an airy but pliable texture. The root is also grated into a porridge known as tororo, eaten as a stand-alone dish, or added to soups and noodles as a garnish. Yamaimo root pairs well with aromatics such as ginger, garlic, green onions, and yellow onions, nori, asparagus, mushrooms, and meats such as poultry, beef, pork, and fish. Whole, unwashed Yamaimo root will keep up to one month when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place. It can also be stored in the refrigerator as long as it is not kept in the coldest section. Cooked Yamaimo root will keep 2 to 3 days in a sealed container in the fridge.
In Yasuda Town within the Kochi Prefecture, Japan, the annual Yamaimo Matsuri, or Yamaimo Festival, is held to honor and celebrate the root. Yasuda Town residents believe consuming Yamaino root will help give them strength and tenacity, characteristics admired from the hardy yam, and the festival is a local tradition uniting the town. During the festival, Yamaimo root is prepared in a variety of sweet and savory dishes, including soups, sushi, and freshly grated bowls of the root. The root is also sometimes incorporated into savory fried pancakes, known as okonomiyaki. The flat, flavorful pancakes were originally from Osaka, and there are many variations of the pancakes, using vegetables, spices, meat, and Yamaimo root as a starchy binder. Throughout Japan, some restaurants grill the okonomiyaki in front of the diners, while other restaurants cook the pancakes and allow guests to assemble their own toppings.
Yamaimo roots are native to Eastern Asia, specifically Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and China, and have been growing wild since ancient times. The roots have been cultivated as a culinary and medicinal ingredient since around the Stone Age, and records also reference the root’s use as an aphrodisiac in Japan in the Edo Period. During this time, Yamaimo was often known as Mountain Eel and was infused into baths and consumed to increase endurance. Over time, Yamaimo roots were spread to Vietnam and other countries within Southeast Asia, where they have been used as a natural, sticky binder in culinary preparations. Today Yamaimo roots are primarily cultivated in Eastern Asia and are sold in local markets, grocers, and distributors. The roots are also grown on a small scale in the United States and Europe, found through Asian markets and specialty distributors.
Recipes that include Yamaimo Root. One is easiest, three is harder.
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