Beni imo, sweet potato from Okinawa   沖縄の紅芋

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Taro and Beni Imo

Taro (sato imo) on the left, and beni imo on the right.

Purple island sweetness

The Okinawa archipelago contains many treasures, both in terms of landscapes and culinary specialties. One of them is a special sweet potato called "beni imo". What's so special about it? Beyond its delicious sweet taste, its flesh is an intense purple color.

Beni imo Cheesecake

Beni Imo (purple sweet potato) cheesecake from Okinawa.

Sweet potato from Yomitan

It's impossible to ignore its presence in Okinawa: the beni imo is the celebrity of the main island: there are sweets and ice cream using this violet sweet potato in almost every corner of the capital, Naha. In every convenience store, you can even buy beni imo ice cream. Its popularity grows stronger as you reach the village of Yomitan on the west coast. And for good reason: this is where the beni imo comes from. It's even called 'the sweet potato of Yomitan'. Its deep purple flesh makes it an unusual food and an excellent culinary souvenir of the island!

Read also: Yomitan village

The beni imo, a "super-food"

In addition to having this striking color - which comes from the same molecule giving the violet color to blueberries and red cabbage - the Okinawan sweet potato is officially recognized as a "superfood". First, it's very rich in fiber. Also, one potato contains four times the daily dose of vitamin A needed for an adult, and half the daily vitamin C requirement.

But don't confuse beni imo, which is a sweet potato, with taro (sato imo in Japanese), which is a tuber. Both are found in Okinawa and they may look similar, but taro is much whiter than beni imo, does not have the same texture at all and, above all, does not have the same taste. Beni imo are extremely sweet, which is why it is usually eaten as a dessert.

Cheesecakes and purple brownies

In the village of Yomitan there is a large shop dedicated to beni imo desserts (also a tourist attraction), near Cape Zampa. Here, you can see the manufacture of many typical cakes and taste different kinds of wagashi using beni imo. Sit down to taste purple cheesecake or brownies. You cannot stay in Okinawa without tasting some of these desserts at least once!

This potato is everywhere, in cakes, in breads and pastries, in ice cream... The most famous treat is the beni imo tart, which looks like a small boat filled with swirls of piped purple cream. It is one of the favorite memories of visitors to Okinawa. In addition, many products such as small ice creams or beni imo chocolates are only found in Okinawa. You can also buy it in powdered form, and use it to make your own sweets at home!

Beni imo tart, an Okinawa specialty

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