Life Life

20/12/2019 - 08:11

Late season of yam

The brown soil seems darker and stickier to the plump yams in the grey rain. Pouring the yams down on a sackcloth on the floor with care, she said: “These yams are fresh and tasty because I’ve just harvested this morning. Please be the first to buy them!”

Yam is used in many dishes. Photo: MC

The soil-covered yams with hair-like rootlets rolled out as if they were making jokes at her, so she had to stretch to catch and put them in order. “Ten thousand dongs a kilo. Yam from An Lo is the best, you know!” – “Can I have two kilos, please!”

Looking at the way she carefully put each yam into the bag, I realized the love she had for the farm produce that her family had taken care of for the past four or five months.

It is easy to grow yams. There are two crops a year. They can be planted in different kinds of soil such as garden soil, upland soil, and especially best suited to the riverside soil with a thin layer of silt deposited every year.

Yams used to be planted in my riverside garden at the downstream of the Huong river. In my memory, my uncle Ngat often prepared the seedbeds for purple potato, yam and cassava. As yam and purple potato are vines, it is necessary to add trellis to support them to climb. After two or three months, green leaves covered the trellis, turning the garden to be a good place for children’s hide-and-seek game.

After four or five months, when the leaves near the ground turned yellow, it was the harvest time as the yams were mature. My childhood memories were connected with the times my neighbor friends and I were in soiled covered clothes helping adults put yams and purple potatoes into bags. We used to be surprised to see a big bunch of tubers under a thin vine.

There was always a pot of steamed yams during the snack time in the harvest afternoon. My brother chose those yams cut by the hoe during harvest to steam first. The intact yams would be saved for sale or later serves.

When the yams were still too hot to eat, we used to hold them in our laps and tossed them. In this way, they would soon turn cool. The big pot of steamed yams was soon picked up for a while.

The most unforgettable dish is yam soup. It is a delicious dish on the rainy day in Hue. To prepare the soup, it is necessary to peal the yams, which is unpleasant because of the sticky and slimy gum. It is a dish that challenges the cook’s patience, but once the soup is done, it is a real pay-off.

The elegant white soup is even more attractive with the flavor of pepper and parsley. The meal on a rainy day becomes cozy and tasty with the yam soup.

Yam is quite easy to combine with other ingredients. My mother often bought pork, if affordable, to cook with yam. She had tips to make the pork broth transparent, creating a pot of delicious yam soup which my mother believed to be tasty, healthy and medicinal.

When there were fresh tiny shrimps at the market, my mother often bought some to cook yam soup, served with mustard. This produced a different taste of yam soup. It was really enjoyable to fully feel the sweet fatty broth combined with the spicy mustard leaves and the tasty yams.

When my mother was away, my brother asked me to go to Ms Tho’s stall to buy some fat, some MSG and some shrimp paste to prepare yam soup. Thanks to the flavor of parsley, I remember, the yam soup that day was delicious.

“The yam season is almost over. I can sell them for only a few days, then I’ll take time to take care of the flowers for Tet that I planted a month ago.” The rain in arly November cannot cover the happiness in her eyes when she talks about a new crop. Her gentle dark brown eyes indicate her confidence in farming love.

 “Farming is really laborious, but it is hard to abandon. I’m satisfied if I earn enough for living cost and support the children’s education. After Tet, I’ll grow yam again,” she gently said.

Story and photo: Xuan An