When someone says the word ‘Jamaica’, certain images come to mind. Warm sunshine. White, sandy beaches. Delicious, fruity cocktails. One word that might not mesh with your usual vision of Jamaica is: yam. However, every April, the yam takes centre stage during the Trelawny Yam Festival.
The Trelawny Yam Festival takes places every April in the main square of Albert Town (it was relocated for two years, but us now back in Albert Town). Why is there a yam festival in Jamaica? The yam is actually one of the most popular foods in Jamaica. It is used in many of their traditional dishes and soups. Some statistics claim that dishes with yams are even more popular in Jamaica than jerk chicken. In the south Trelawny area of Jamaica, the yam is a huge part of the livelihood and economy – many people grow, sell and cook with yams. The importance of the yam to this area’s economy is what sparked the idea for this festival. It was originally a way to raise money for local farmers and support the local community. In its first six years, the Trelawny Yam Festival took place inside Trelawny High School. As more and more people flocked to the festival, the high school could no longer contain them, and so the festival was moved onto the streets of Albert Town. By 2004, a record 18,000 people attended the Trelawny Yam Festival. All those people were there to celebrate the humble and delicious yam. This year, the festival will celebrate its 15th birthday.
The festival has activities and contests for visitors of all ages, as well as enticing dishes to taste. There are cooking competitions to see who can use yams in the most creative manner, and the competitors range from home cooks, to culinary students, to professional chefs. There will be much more than just yam fries at this competition. Past yam culinary creations include yam wine, yam puddings, yam punch and anything else you can imagine. If you can cook it, you can cook it with yams.
If you happen to be in Jamaica in April, be sure to stop my Albert Town for some island hospitality, excellent festivities and, most importantly, delicious yams.
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