Purple Ube Yams


Purple ube yams are the most beautiful roots in the world… though you wouldn’t know it by looking at their exteriors.


I harvested that purple ube yam root from beneath the pollarded sweetgum tree I use as a living yam trellis.

Here’s what I mean about it being the most beautiful root in the world:


That’s just a little corner piece I broke off.

Purple ube yams are the geodes of the plant world.

They’re also used to make some of the most entertainingly colored desserts you can imagine, as I first illustrated in my big post on how to grow yams.

I dedicate a goodly amount of words to yams in both Grow or Die and Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening.

Quit getting them mixed up with sweet potatoes. They’re not sweet potatoes! NO NO NO!

The sweet potato people will tell you this. The truth is out there.

If you’re not growing yams, why not? Purple ube yams in particular are just fun.

Purple ube yam is grown just like the regular white types. Here’s how to grow ’em.

How To Grow Purple Ube Yam

Get Your Starts

Purple_Ube_Yam_BulbilsFirst, get yourself a purple ube yam root or a bulbil.

This is the hard part. Try ebay or your local permaculture or gardening group.

If you have a full root, divide it up like this into minisetts. If you have bulbils, you don’t need to cut them up.

Planting Your Yams

Last year I planted my yam pieces into a big pot during the winter, then transplanted them out to my food forest when they sprouted in the spring.

You can also just plant them in place anytime from fall through spring. I plant yam roots or bulbils just an inch or two down. That’s enough to keep the frosts from getting them.

Place yam starts at the base of something they can climb. A tree, a fence, a trellis – anything they can grab. You’ll be surprised at how vigorous the vines can be. You can plant them in a somewhat shady spot and they’ll climb a tree up into the light and help themselves to the sunshine.

Keeping Yams Going

You really don’t need to do much. Just throw some compost on them if you think of it. Water when you remember.

Harvesting Your Yams

Yams usually go dormant in the winter (or freeze down) and that’s the time to start digging. I wait until the second year for bigger yams. That’s right: I plant my yams two years before I hope to eat them.

This really isn’t a big deal. It’s not like they need any care.

Purple ube yam isn’t as vigorous as the yellow or white yams in my experience. The roots are maybe half the size of the monster white ones. Dig carefully. There’s one big root at the base of the vine and it often gets bigger as it goes beneath the surface like an iceberg.

During the first year, your yam vine will produce a few bulbils in the fall. The second year, it will make a lot more. Here’s me harvesting purple ube yam bulbils from a 2+ year old vine:

Purple ube yams are really a marvelous and beautiful crop that’s certain to impress your friends and family.

Now I need to try making that purple dessert…

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  • Thanks a lot for this article, your blog, and the inspiration you give me.
    I got some Dioscorea opposita bulbils after reading one of your articles and found some other dioscorea seeds (alata, atropurpurea).
    Still have to find this one (and sweet potatoes too like the Okinawa and Murasaki-imo).
    Looking forward to reading your “Grow or Die” book when it will be available as a paperback.

  • Haven’t figured out until now how to make an ube dessert? In the Philippines, the most popular of all the ube desserts is called, ube halaya. You can search for it on youtube or on google.

  • Where can I purchase “starts” for ube plants?

  • Looking for the bulbils for the purple yam. Where is a good reputable place to purchase these?

    • In Florida, they’re technically listed as “invasive,” so finding a nursery source is impossible. You’ll have to ask around permaculture and edible landscaping circles. Any good gardening Meetup groups in your area?

    • Go shopping in the veggie section of an Asian market. There are many, many veggies available that you’ll never see in a regular supermarket. Very inexpensive since you pay by the pound!! Root vegetables you’ve never heard of are a real find. I’m harvesting and planting my bubils right now to give as vines for Christmas. Hundreds and hundreds of them since I planted the first tuber 5 years ago. We call him (the original plant) Seymour from The Little Shop of Horrors because he is a voracious climber and could become a nuisance. I use him and his offspring mostly as my Chia pets because the vine can climb all over anything!

  • I would like to purchese some purple yams for planting.Please let me no Where I
    Can buy them,Thank you in Advance.

    • I don’t have them anymore, unfortunately. Try looking up local gardening Meetup groups, particularly permaculture groups. Sometimes people have them to share.

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  • Are the purple yam, ube, edible when raw?

  • Hello Mr David The Good

    We just ordered Dioscorea purple ube yam plants from Ebay, my assoc just transplant them finally!

    I enjoyed reading info, this must be long time ago, by any chance, do you any fresh yam for sale, pls let me buy some, I appreciate your responses.


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