Where does ube grow? – The simplest answer to this would be the Asian tropics. However, there is also more to this. While the crop may be majorly found in the Asian tropics, it is not limited to that location. To understand where to find this crop, you need to understand what is ube first. Ube is a root vegetable that falls under the yam family and holds the scientific name “Dioscorea alata.” It is also known as purple yam and is a perennial climbing herb with greyish-brown skins. They generally grow in a round to cylindrical shapes and hold a watery/slimy outer texture. The easiest way to identify this plant is with its vibrant purple interior.
Where Does Ube Grow? A Brief History of the Plant
To further give an idea on where to find ube, it can help to know the history behind this crop. There are no specific details on where the plant was first found. However, there is evidence that the crop, prior to the Austronesian expansion, was exploited in Island Southeast Asia and New Guinea. It is one of many important crops in Austronesian cultures. Along with other tubers, it was once domesticated and cultivated independently within Island Southeast Asia and New Guinea. Currently, you can mainly find it majorly grown in the Philippines.
When it comes to growing ube, there are different ways you can go about it. It can take up to 12 weeks for the crop to grow and it can grow as large as 20 to 30 feet tall and 3 to 6 feet wide in size. As a root vegetable, you can find the plant growing underground and vary in size, from an inch to almost fistful size. Outwardly, they present heart-shaped leaves in bundles.
What You Can Do with Ube
The first culinary use of the crop was noted to be in 1918 as a jam. Currently, ube halaya is the most often way to use ube. It is created by cooking the vegetable in water until it softens, mashing until uniform in texture, adding sugar mixed in water, and cooking over fire. To further smoothen the jam or add flavor, you can pour coconut milk. Ube halaya is something you can enjoy alone or on toast but is often used as a way to add ube flavoring. You can also achieve this with the use of ube essence and ube powder.
When it comes to using ube in dishes, you will mainly find it in desserts. Ube is generally a sweet and rich flavor and when the crop is cooked, it results in a smooth and custard-like consistency. Due to its flavor profile, ube pairs well with other flavorings such as cheese and other sweet and savory treats. An example of this is “Ube Cheese Pandesal” and “Ube Turon.” It is also a fun flavor to experiment with on western desserts such as “Ube Butter Mochi” and “Ube Brownies.” Overall, ube is a highly versatile crop that you can majorly find in the Philippines and can be enjoyed in different ways.