Located in the yam parish of Trelawny, the Ulster Spring Women's Group is intent on treating palates to creative and tasty yam-based products. Comprising 15 members, the group, which is on a part of the JN Foundation's Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI) programme, has been utilising yam to make beverages and baked products for more than a decade.
Having received recognition from its participation in national events, including past yam festivals, the group is preparing to increase its visibility in the food industry with its unique and niche-oriented products. The group has perfected their recipes for an impressive range of products, including its yam punch and wine, yam cake, ice cream, bun, and pizza.
Group member Stephanie Johnson-Palmer expressed great optimism for the future of the products, based on the relatively untapped market it will serve, as well as the tasty options in the product offerings.
"I remember working in Kingston, and I introduced my employer to a yam punch. She had no idea that yam could make such a refreshing drink. She was pleasantly surprised, and that is the reaction from most persons when they taste our products. They just can't believe that we use yam as the primary ingredient in all our products because of how tasty they are. Nobody really thinks about getting creative with yam," said Johnson-Palmer.
President of the women's group, Elizabeth Chambers, says they have been receiving special orders, which has so far included a yam wedding cake. As for the best-selling products at the moment, she believes the yam punch and pizza are huge hits. "In rural areas, you don't readily have access to pizza, and so you find that persons order our yam pizza mostly on weekends. They can personalise it with their own toppings, which complements the yam crust. As for the yam punch, the men love this, as they call it the man's drink as it is a natural food drink. The texture is similar to other punches," she explained.
Getting ready to infiltrate the local market, the group has been growing its operations since its affiliation with the JN Foundation- and USAID-funded SEBI programme. Receiving support from volunteers and government entities, such as the Rural Agricultural Development Agency and the Scientific Research Council, the Ulster Spring Women's Group is one of the entities selected to participate in the SEBI programme.
Feast your eyes on these 'yam-licious' treats.