Bitter yam also known as three-leave-yam is a tuber crop in the family of yam. This type of yam is although not as popular as yam, but in some places, it is well known and liked.
It is Largely known and cultivated in Africa,more especially in West Africa like Nigeria, Ghana etc.
It has almost the exact resemblance of yam, but it is quite different from yam, it is a little bit smaller than yam, as yam can grow into huge sizes, on the inside, it looks exactly like the inside of yam when cut open, but the taste are different when cooked.
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It is largely known as Una in igbo language and it has many names which it is known for in many languages in Africa.
In this article, I will leak the total information about this tuber crop, first let’s dive into the farming process and procedures involved in it.
To farm this great unpopular food, known as Una or bitteryam, there are some requirements for it which are:
LAND: land is the number 1 factor or requirement to consider when doing any sort of agricultural project.
The crop requires a land to farm it, although farmers don’t emphasis on this crop much due to the fact that it is not much of an export goods, but locally in African countries like Nigeria, the local or domestic demand is high, but not as high as yam.
So you need land according to the quantity you want to invest in to, for a local level productions or for personal productions, you need at least from half plot of land to at least 3 plots. For commercial purpose, you will be needing land that ranges from 5 plots and above.
Before sitting your bitteryam farm, make sure the land does not have erosion when there is heavy rain fall and the wind won’t disturb the Una farm.
When you might have gotten your land and have checked the necessary things I mentioned above, then it is time to prepare the land.
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The best time to prepare the land is between the month of January and February, this is when the rain have not started yet!.
To prepare the land, you need to cut down the trees and uproot the grass or bush in the farm land with the necessary tools like Cutlass, shovel etc or you do it with tractor if you are operating a big farm.
When through with clearing, allow them to dry and set the farm ablaze with fire.
After burning the dirt’s, leave them there for rain to mix them with the soil. This is a very good manure.
After the rain might have fallen 2 or 3 times, go and rake the farm and remove unnecessary dirt’s and start ploughing the land of about 5 to 7 inches deep.
PLANTING:. After you are through with land preparation, the next thing to do is to start planting the bitteryam (Una) seed.
Just like yam, the Una seed is the head of the Bitteryam (Una) tuber which is cut off or thrown away when eating.
Get the Seed as many as you want or as your farm could carry and plant them one after the other in the holes you dug, placing the head of the seeds where it will sprout from up on the surface and cover them with sand, leaving the head of the Una seed up on the surface.
Also make provision of space of at least half feet between each Una crop, so as to give them enough space for adequate sunlight penetration
I normally recommend for both yam, Cocoyam and bitteryam to place their seeds on a very cool place where they will germinate, before being transplanted to the farm. This is because to avoid some of them not being attacked by insects or some being rot in the ground,so transplanting when they have already germinated is better.
So if you are using the method of transplanting, also make sure the leaves are up on the surface while you bury the seed in the earth.
Immediately they sprout, go and collect long branches of tree or dried bamboo trees and mount them 6 inch in front of the Bitter yams. This is to enable the Una leaves to climb up on them when growing.
WEEDING/PESTS: Weed is likely to start coming out on the farm in some weeks after planting or a month, although the weed does no serious harm to the Una crops, but they need to be taken care of anyway! to make the farm look good an to stop some weed from breeding pests to the farm crops.
Just like yam, Bitteryam or three-leave-yam or Una they takes between 5 to 8 months to mature. Within this time, weed will grow always and you need to weed the farm 3 or 4 times before the crops will mature.
To weed the farm, you have to get weed killer and spray on the farm or you do the weeding manually with hoes.
Pests like Caterpillars and Ants do attack this crop, wether the crops are in their infant stage or maturity stage, these pests will still attack them.
Ants do attack the tubers and make them rot in the ground, while caterpillars do eat the leaves up, thereby killing the Una crops.
To control these pests, get an insecticide and spray on the farm.
HARVEST: Just like yam, once they are matured enough for harvest, their leaves will turn a little bit from Green to yellow, this is how you know they are matured and you need to harvest them.
To harvest them, use a harvester tractor if you have a large farm or do it manually if the farm is small.
To do it manually, you need a shovel to dig a little bit deep around each of them and bring out the tuber while you cut off the leaves.
Do the digging gently and carefully, or you will cut the tubers into pieces, thereby making them useless.
Bitter yam is one of the farm crops that lasts longer in storage.
This crop does not actually require any special storage system, all they need is to be kept in a cool place where the sunshine or the heat of the sun is minimal, and they an last for a year.
USES: Una is a very good farm crop, but it is suprising why it is not yet known in some places. Infact some people do say that Bitteryam is far better than yam itself, although I am one of those that oppose this taught, but to me, the crop is very good. Now here are the importance –
Food: It is a very nice food and it is cooked like boiling yam, but the difference is, bitteryam takes more time to be cooked than yam, and their tastes are not the same, although they are eaten in the same way, either with sauce or red oil etc.
Apart from boiling, there is no other way to eat it, and this is the reason yam is farm more useful, than three-leave-yam, but it is more delicious than yam.
MEDICINAL: This food crop contains many minerals and can cure some illness in the body.
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