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Yamaimo is made up of elongated cylindrical roots with rough textured skin. It's pale earth tones conceal a snow white flesh that is crisp and nearly tasteless. Although crisp when whole, when grated, the flesh becomes glue-like due to its high mucilage content, which allows the root to store water. Its sticky texture and glutenous properties give this root its greater placement within the kitchen.
Rare, Yamaimo is generally harvested in the fall and winter months.
Yamaimo is botanically classified as Dioscorea opposita. Yamaimo is a root vegetable that is cultivated for similar culinary purposes as yams and potatoes as its flesh is relatively high in starch and gluten. Its common vernacular names are nagaimo (long potato), mountain yam, Chinese yam and Japanese yam.
Yamaimo root is often used as a binder in noodle dishes or made into tororo paste. Unlike the common yam, it can be used raw, lending its crunchy texture to sushi, sashimi and salads. Yamaimo is also a preferable vegetable to tempura. If using like a common yam, yamaimo can be braised, broiled and roasted. Given its absence of flavor, it is enhanced with savory herbs, spices and sweet sauces.
Yamaimo is Japanese and can be translated as mountain (yame) potato (imo).
The Yamaimo root is native to Japan and has been cultivated there sine the Stone Age. It grows throughout China, Korea and Japan. After harvest, Yamaimo roots are often cut into smaller pieces and stored in sawdust to protect their moisture content and texture.