Friday, June 18, 2010

Confusing UBI

Ubi in Malay language refers to specialized root modified for storage of food or water. .Tuber it is.

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There are not many varieties of edible tuberous roots that I know of. But in Malay term, the word ‘ubi’ is prefixed to almost all of it, i.e ubi kentang, ubi kayu, ubi keledek. This creates confusion lead many to conclude that they are from ‘ubi’ family. They are however, of very distinct family.

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Ubi kentang 马铃薯 is potatoes, the tuberous root of Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family ( nightshades family ). It is an herbaceous annual shrub.

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Ubi kentang is suggested to originated from Peru, South America. However 99% of today’s cultivated potatoes are descendants of a subspecies indigenous to Chile. The Chilean subspecies, Solanum tuberosum ssp. tuberosum, is believed to be cultivated as long as 10,000 years ago.

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The Spaniard brought it to Europe in 1536, soon spread to the rest of the world. The potatoes reached India in the late 16th and early 17th century, most likely aboard ships from Portugal. Then, it spread to the rest of Asia.

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Potatoes contains vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and trace amounts of magnesium phosphorus, iron and zinc.

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World production of potatoes was 314 million tones. China was the main producer with 70 million tones.

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Ubi kayu 木薯 is cassava, root of Manihot esculenta, is a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae family ( spurge family ).

Ubi kayu is native to South America, presumably eastern Brazil.

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Ubi kayu is an ancient crop species. Domestication began some 5000-7000 years BC. By the time the Europeans reached the New World, the crop was already cultivated in all of neotropical America. It was only centuries ago. The Portuguese traders carried the crop from its native America to Africa and then Asia.

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The roots are very rich in starch, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C. However they are poor in protein and other nutrients. In contrast, cassava leaves are a good source of protein

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World production of cassava was estimated to be 184 million tones in 2002. The major production is Africa, with Nigeria lead as world’s largest producer.

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Ubi keledek 番薯 is sweet potato, tuberous root of Ipomoea batatas, an herbaceous perennial vine belongs to the family Convolvulaceae family.

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Sweet potatoes are native to South America, domesticated some 5000 years ago. Radiocarbon dating suggested it has been in Cook Islands around 1000 AD, possibly brought by Polynesians who had travelled to South America and back, and spread across Polynesians to New Zealand. Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks found the Maoris of NZ’s North Island growing sweet potato ( locally known as Kumara ) when they landed in 1769.

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The Spaniard brought the sweet potatoes to the Philippines in the 16th century. From there the Portuguese spread it to East Indies and India. Sweet potatoes found it way to China in 1593, when a famine in Fujian province leads the people to search for alternative food from the Philippines. It was not until the 18th century that the sweet potatoes made its way into Japan, possibly through China.

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The roots are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B6, calcium and iron. The leaves and shoots are also edible

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World production of sweet potato is 127 million tones in 2004. China was the top producer.

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