Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Yams: Origins and Development

  • Huw BartonEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_2193

Basic Species Information

Yams are flowering plants of the family Dioscoreaceae, consisting of more than 800 species of climbing vines and woody shrubs. Many members of the yam family produce subterranean tubers or tuberous stems, and have heart-shaped leaves, small green or white flowers, and a fruit that is a winged capsule or berry. Yams are distributed widely throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world, though current geographic distribution has almost certainly been influenced by human translocations. Today yams are widely used as an important food staple and as a fallback food in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Pacific islands, and South America.

In 2007, worldwide yam production totaled 52 million t, of which Africa produced 96 %, most of which derived from West Africa, with Nigeria alone producing 71 % of that total (IITA 2009). Yams are a good source of dietary fiber and are rich in carbohydrates, vitamin C, and essential minerals. Yams may be stored for up...

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Further Reading

  1. Hu-Yin, H. & P. Sheng-Ji. 2004. Plants used medicinally by folk healers of the Lahu people from the autonomous county of Jinping Mial, Yao, and Dai in Southwest China. Economic Botany 58: S265-S273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Semple, A. & M. Hadley. (ed.) Tropical forests people and food: 621-932. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Archaeology and Ancient HistoryUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK