Ube- Ubi-purple yam, winged yam, ratalu, uhi
Ube or ubi is an edible, tuberous roots that has been widely cultivated around the world especially in Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, ube is a delicacy. I remember my Mom had planted this purple yam in our backyard, and before Christmas, she would gather the yams and make it into a dessert we call “halaya”. She boils the yam first and then peel them before mashing it. Then in a big bowl, she will mix in evaporated milk and sugar then flavor it with vanilla. She will then cook it in moderate heat until the mixture becomes thick and firm. You need to constantly stir it to prevent it from burning and also put some margarine or butter to prevent it from sticking in the pan. It is somewhat laborious to make but it is worth it. The “halaya” is always the star of the Christmas dinner or “Noche Buena” alongside the famous “leche flan” (Custard with caramel)
Ube plant grows in a vine. The leaves are shaped like arrowheads and shiny and dark green in color. I did not see any flowers from this vine, but they produce little bulb they call bulbils and you can use it to propagate. It takes about 8 to 11 months before you can harvest. I guess my Mom knows how to time the planting of ube so she can harvest before Christmas. The tubers are big and uneven in shape and heavy. You have to be careful when digging to avoid bruising the yam. The skin is rough and difficult to peel. It is best to boil them first before peeling. Just like making mashed potatoes.
The ube plant needs sandy loam soil. The sand provides a good drainage for the roots to develop. Constant moisture is also a must so the soil will not form a crust that will impede the development of the tuber.
Ube is also used in ice cream, halo-halo and cakes. In Hawaii, most bakeries now are making purple yam bread and/or purple yam pie.
Ube is rich in carbohydrates making it one of staple food like rice. It is rich in fiber, high in protein, and also contains calcium, ascorbic acid and most of the B vitamins like niacin, thiamin, etc.