The Art of Harvesting Yams

If you planted yams in your garden and nurtured them faithfully throughout the season, you are probably anxious to take the first bite of the fresh tubers. However, if you are new to planting yams, you probably do not know how to harvest them! Since harvesting is just as crucial as watering, it is essential to know what to do to reap your harvest.


How to Tell When Yams Are Mature

One of the first things you need to know before harvesting your yams is whether or not they are actually ready to be harvested! Unlike plants like tomatoes or beans, you cannot gauge for maturity by looking at the produce. After all, yams are tubers, so the edible part of the plant is underground.

However, there are things you can look for to estimate when you can harvest the yams.

  • When did you plant the yams? Yams typically take 100 days or more to mature.
  • Are the vines still green or have they become yellow? The more yellow and dead-looking the vines, the closer the yams are to maturity.
  • Have you had several light touches of frost? Yams are not usually ready to harvest until there have been a couple of nights of freezing temperatures.

Once you have determined that the yams are ready to harvest, you can start to dig them up.

How to Harvest Yams

One of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to harvesting the yam crop is to use a shovel to dig under the plants. This often results in tubers that have been cut by the sharp blade of the tool. There is no sense in growing yams if you have to throw away tubers you have cut with your shovel.

Instead of a shovel, you should use a pitchfork to loosen the soil around the plants, then gently insert the fork into the ground. As you lift the fork, you should see the yams emerging from the soil. Be sure to use the pitchfork all around the base of the plant, as yams tend to form tubers in a circle around the plant. After the soil is loose, use your hands to separate the yams from the earth. Dig through the ground carefully, so you do not miss any stragglers!

Once you have harvested all of the yams, you can store them just like you would store potatoes. If you leave the dirt on them and put them in a cool, dark place, your harvest may easily last all through the winter months.