These tender and tropical perennials grow up to a height of 12-18inches (around 30-45cm) in a spacing of 24-36inches (around 60-90cm). The leaves are around 50 cm in length and consist of many oval leaflets. These plants bloom around spring producing mauve or magenta colored flowers with fragrance. 3-4 years are generally required for the corms to be harvested. These evergreen plants can be grown in container as well if the soil is acidic. Elephant yam is an edible tuber. It is one of the oldest plants known to provide food. It is so called because of its huge size and resemblance with the elephant foot. It is widely consumed as a food crop, usually boiled or baked.
It is preferred to buy elephant yam from the markets where it is available is a fresh condition. It is preferable to wear gloves while handling the elephant yam as the sap of these plants causes skin irritation.
Karunai Kilangu (elephant foot yam) can be consumed in many ways safely only after removal of its toxic materials. In scarcity of different staple foods, yam is used. So it is also sometimes referred to as a ‘famine food’. Before cooking, the wild forms must be soaked in water and boiled for a long time to remove bitterness. The outer brown skin of Karunai is thoroughly washed and removed. Then they are generally cut into small cubes. It can be boiled in clean water as well as with a pinch of turmeric in water Delicious recipes are available for cooking elephant yam.
- Elephant yam can be cooked in tangy sauce.
- Using minimal oil and by shallow frying yam kabab can be made.
- Deep frying half boiled Karunai in red chilli and turmeric powder can make a nice side dish.
- Adding paste made of coconut, snuf and jeera to the deep fried Karunai, it can be roasted and served as a delicious dish.
- Boiled Karunai can be also consumed by mixing it with lemon-juice, mustard paste and salt. Green chillies can also be added to the preparation for enhancing its taste.
- Yum pulusu ia a dish made of elephant yam. It is made by cooking it in nice tangy and spicy tamarind sauce.
- Yam can also be eaten as a supplement of cereals.
For planting purposes only the fully matured, cured and graded tubers are used for storage. Cool and well ventilated places are used for storing. Generally the tubers are stored in single layer. If there is insufficiency is storage space, then the tubers can be stored in two layers as well. But storing the tubers in a heap should be avoided.
In seed bank vaults, the dried and packed seeds are stored at a sub zero temperature. The seeds resemble a flat lens. The light brown, apical seeds of diameter 5mm have membranous wings which are usually 10mm long and about 7mm wide.
It has been proved that Karunai Kilangu (elephant foot yam) has many medical benefits as its root is highly stomachic, restorative, carminative and tonic.
- The cooling effect of Karunai Kilangu can be a cure for Hypertension.
- It is often use as a treatment for piles.
- Yam helps to reduce cholesterol levels in blood.
- It can even act as an anticoagulant.
- Elephant yam can be safely consumed by diabetic people.
- Karunai Kilangu helps to maintain the hormonal balance by increasing the estrogen level in women. It can relieve the women from pre-menstrual syndrome as well.
- Hemorrhoids patients are also prescribed to have elephant yam.
- Powerful antioxidant Vitamin C is present which delays aging.
- It is also provided as a medicine for treatment to patients suffering from acute rheumatism.
- Irregular bowel movements and constipation can also be cured with its intake.
- However, it should be borne in mind that elephant yam is a cooling food. Hence patients suffering from cold, sinus infection or asthma should avoid its intake.
Where to buy the vegetable in US
This plant is grown mostly in tropical regions like Florida. Altamonte Springs, Brooksville, Cape Coral, Fernandina Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Gainesville, Lakeland, North Fort Myers, St. Augustine, Tampa, Winter Haven are the places in Florida where the plant grows. Clayton and Sacramento in California, Kenner in Louisiana, Portland in Oregon, Reynoldsville in Pennsylvania, Puyallup in Washington and Cabin Creek in West Virginia are also known for growing this plant.
Nutritional and dietary information
Karunai Kilangu (elephant foot yam) has a rich nutritional profile.
It provides energy about 330KJ/100g (approximately).
Potassium, Phosphorous and Magnesium are the key minerals found in elephant yam. It also contains trace minerals like zinc, copper and selenium.
- It also contains Calcium. 50-56mg/100g of its contents is Calcium.
- Its 18-24% is carbohydrate content.
- About 0.8% is fibre.
- Its water content is about 72-79%
- 1.7-5.0% of its content is protein.
- It has omega-3 fatty acids.
Diosgenin, a molecular hormone which has potential anticancer effects, is found in yam.
- Elephant foot yam is high on vitamin B6 content.
- It also contains Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
From its wide medicinal benefits and nutritional profile we can hereby conclude that elephant yam is very potent source of nutrition. So its consumption will prove beneficial to health. It can also be consumed by people looking for weight reduction as it is low on fat content (0.2-0.4%).
Currently due to over collection of Karunai Kilangu (elephant foot yam) for medicinal use and horticulture trade, it is under threat.