Kenting Local Food: Wild Chinese Yam of the Peninsula

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Kenting Local Food: Wild Chinese Yam of the Peninsula

Although Chinese yam is a type of yam, Taiwanese mostly take it as a vegetable, the most common of which is yam pork rib soup or yam meatballs, yam clam soup, etc.
After drying, it becomes Chinese herbal medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine believes that it has therapeutic effects of spleen strengthening, deficiency curing, kidneys benefiting, tendons strengthening, cold removal, etc.

kenting farmer with chinese yam

Chinese yam in Kenting can grow almost as tall as a farmer itself

Modern medicine has also confirmed that Chinese yam is rich in Diosgenin, a type of natural DHEA, which has the effect of promoting the synthesis of endocrine hormones. In addition, Chinese yam also contains a variety of substances beneficial to the body.

For example, protein, glycoside, amino acids, mucous, minerals (calcium, phosphorus, iron, iodine, etc.), vitamins C, vitamin A, etc. Since ancient times, Chinese yam has been a trusted healing product of diet.

There are many kinds of Chinese yam in Taiwan, and the shapes of tubers are long, round, palm-like, etc. The color of inside is different from outside, and it is common to have red, yellow, purple, white, etc.
Some of the Chinese yam sold in the market are imported from Japan, while the rest are mostly artificially cultivated.

The place still containing wild Chinese yam is probably only left Hengchun Peninsula, and especially Kenting. 

The place still containing wild Chinese yam is probably only left Hengchun Peninsula, and especially Kenting.

Kenting National Park headquarters (KNPH) Tweet
chinese yam leaves in kenting

Kenting Chinese Yam leaves resemble the halberds of traditional weapons

Wild Chinese yam of Hengchun Peninsula is officially called Hengchun yam or halberd leaf field potato. It is named as such because the leaves resemble the halberds of traditional weapons.

The edible underground tubers are untidy long columns with yellowish brown skin and snow-white flesh; the flesh is tender, and it is easy to break.

The white milk will flow out of the cracks, and the fresh taste is slightly hard and crispy; after cooking, it becomes soft and dense. Hence, both raw and cooked food are very tasty.

Wild yam distributed in the western half of peninsula are mainly concentrated in the areas near Xiping Mountain (west tableland), Santai Mountain, Chiniuling, Dashanmu Mountain, and the southern foothills of Lilong Mountain. They can be found in the areas between the forests which are slightly wide.

In every spring new shoots will grow from buds, and then vines grow, trying to climb the trees to stretch upwards to gain more sunlight.

When downhill wind reaches, the stems and leaves gradually wither; for life continuance, the Chinese yam will work hard to store all the water and nutrients in the underground roots. After the stems and leaves wither, people only go up the mountain to collect Chinese yam.

harvesting chinese yam in kenting

Harvesting Chinese Yam is a tough job

The primary skill of the Chinese yam picker is to find the wild Chinese yam of which the stems and leaves have dried up in an autumn of dry yellow in color, and then use the semi-circular iron to dig out the round hole along the side of the Chinese yam.

It often takes 1 or 2 hours and digging of one or two meters deep to take out the whole root. This hard-won wild food is of course not cheap in price, and it is generally several times more expensive than the planted Chinese yam. Nevertheless, the hard-won wild food is still in short supply, and it is quite popular with gourmets.

Along with a Black Beans which also has many health benefits Chinese Yam are still playing a big role in Kenting resident’s daily life. 

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