The quest for Ube (dioscorea alata)

Does anyone grow Ube?

Our local asian market sells processed ube (frozen, powdered, jam, etc.), but I cannot find fresh ube around. Does anyone grow it? If yes, where did you get it? Could you tell me anything about how to grow it, conditions, season, etc.?

My mom (who’s from the Philippines) visited my house recently, and as I proudly showed her my garden and all the things growing, she asked my why I don’t grow any Ube for her. Sigh. So now I must grow Ube, or face the disappointment of my mom.

Any help or advice would be much appreciated!

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Did you try H Mart?
7320 Old York Rd, Elkins Park, PA 19027

Haha, that’s the “local asian market” I was referring to!

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Its everywhere in NJ not just asian markets. Hard to believe h-mart doesn’t have any. They must be truely out of season or major shipping problems. I will look at my local markets.

There’s a very large Korean population around where I live, but not a ton of Filipinos (I’m the only one that I know of in my neighborhood). So the H-mart doesn’t carry a ton of Filipino things.

Side note: I grew up in Ocean County, NJ! I think NJ has a lot more Filipinos, in general, than my current area. Growing up, my mom worked at the local hospital, and there were SO MANY Filipino nurses/doctors who worked there. I went to catholic school as a kid, and one of the priests was Filipino (Father Tito!) and probably 20% of the kids there were of Filipino descent. I think that’s probably why Ube is more common in NJ than it is in my area? That being said, even when I was in NJ, I never remember fresh Ube at the regular grocery stores. We would go to the local Filipino market to get Ube, but still very rarely fresh.

Yea, I get it when I got to NJ 7 years ago. I was supprised H Mart was nearly 100% Korean-japanese products. In the Washington DC area where I came from H mart had always been Multi Asian. Since then the stock in NJ changed to be more multi-asian. There is also a significant pocket of filipinos and often a nice stock of Mama-sita products.

The market on 5th and Washington Ave in South Philly has it all the time.

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Do you by any chance know the name of the market? It’s about an hour drive from me, so I’d want to call to make sure fresh ube is in stock before I drive over.

I grow Ube. I don’t have any left over from last season… in fact I thought I had lost both varieties, but there’s volunteer plants sprouting all over the part of the yard where I grew them.

I grow one that was sent to me as Ube from Florida (I think originally from an Asian Market), but other than a reddish purple skin, it’s a pretty standard alata, with white flesh.

Meanwhile, I had acquired an alata from eBay, that was not referred to as Ube but as Dark Night St. Vincent (originally from Jamaica). That one grew purple-tinged white when in a pot, but a rich, deep purple when grown in-ground.

I also grow a deeper purple bulbifera from Saipan, but while I’ve eaten it without getting sick, I did boil it repeatedly.

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They might not know what “Ube” is if that’s what you ask for. It wouldn’t be what employees there call it.

Before everyone jumps on this, Ube is very difficult to grow anywhere in the U.S. other than parts of Florida and extreme southern areas with similar climate. It is a tropical plant.

I’ve grown Okinawan Purple sweet potato which has a lot of similarities. It is also difficult to mature in my North Alabama climate. Okinawan makes an excellent souffle, sweet potato pie, or just baked with a bit of butter.

Yields would be smaller depending on the setup, but if you got a very bright greenhouse, a pot and a tomato cage, it should grow just fine. Dioscorea yams are very easy to grow, just frost intolerant.

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Would it be to much to ask you to post your 5 favorite recipe s?

I think that Florida market swindled you (or they didn’t quite know what they were sending). Ube should be brown on the outside, but bright purple in the inside!

What does the dark night St Vincent taste like? Is it sort of glutinous and nutty and faintly vanilla-y? Maybe it’s the same thing as what I’m thinking of, but with a different name?

Thanks! I’ll check them out! Maybe I’ll ask for purple yam instead?

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Are they really sweet potatoes, or are they purple yams? What do they taste like? Are they sort of glutinous and nutty and vanilla-y? Maybe I could try that as a substitute?

How long does it take from planting to harvest? For example, if I planted in winter indoors in a 20 inch pot in front of a bright window, could I move it outdoors by a trellis in spring, and then harvest in the fall?

Oh man, that’s a really hard one cause my mom never uses recipes. Also, we rarely have access to fresh ube, so she usually just uses the processed stuff she gets from the market (either frozen, flour, or jam). I think mostly she just wants it for nostalgia purposes?

When we have it fresh, the main thing she makes is jam (halaya) and then she uses the jam either alone or as an ingredient in lots of other things.

Since she doesn’t use a recipe, the basic method is:

  • Boil the ube with the skin on (maybe two pounds or so?).
  • Drain, peel, and cube the ube. Add back to the pot.
  • Add one can sweetened condensed milk
  • Add one can coconut milk (or you can substitute with a can of evaporated milk)
  • Add sugar, maybe about a half cup? More or less to taste. Raw sugar or brown sugar is better than white sugar, but use what you have.
  • Add a little salt.
  • Mash the mixture (or use a stick blender).
  • Bring to a light boil.
  • Add about a half a stick of butter.
  • Stir, and never stop stirring, until it thickens to like a spreadable texture. Maybe a half hour or so? The most important thing is to never stop stirring or it will burn.
  • It will thicken a lot when it cools. Keep it refrigerated.

Halaya is super tasty. You can eat it alone, eat it on bread, add it to baked recipes, add it to ice cream recipes, etc.

Okinawan Purple is a true sweet potato in Ipomoea Batatas. It is a superb root vegetable for making homemade purple sweet potato pie and other dishes where good flavor and texture are required. It is not a yam though there are a lot of similarities. Okinawan Purple is very difficult to grow here in north Alabama and impossible to grow much further north with the qualified exception that it does fairly well in a greenhouse. If you search for “okinawan purple sweet potato” several pictures will show up. White skin with pale lavender purple flesh is typical.

I’ve never grown sweet potato. Does it grow similarly to a regular potato? If I wanted to try the Okinawan purple, would I put it near the bottom of a grow bag and keep adding compost as the plant grows up? (That’s how I do potatoes). Could I start or finish it indoors to extend the growing time?

I’m in 7a if that makes sense difference?