Something you don’t see a lot of in produce departments is … the color purple. But that could be about to change, thanks at least in part to a company that has long used purple as the “family” color: Frieda’s Specialty Produce, originally, some 40 years ago, Frieda’s Specialty Produce.
Karen Caplan, daughter of Frieda and now the company’s president and CEO, recently did an interview with And Now U Know, the produce newsletter, to discuss purple yams, AKA Ube (pronounced OO-beh). Native to the Philippines, this tuber’s sweet taste and alluring purple hue is popular with cooks across Asia, Caplan told the newsletter’s Lauren Hillen.
One of Caplan’s missions was to distinguish Ube from the likes of Stokes Purple sweet potatoes and Okinawan purple sweet potatoes. They look similar, she noted, but each has a distinct taste and flavor. Ube’s skin is brown and bark-like, and its flesh ranges from white with purple specks, to lilac. Stokes Purple, a trademarked brand, has purple-tinted skin and violet-purple flesh. Okinawan purple sweet potatoes have beige skin and lavender-purple flesh.
Frieda’s produced a cute little minute-long film to illustrate those differences, and to point out the forms of Ube most likely to be encountered in the US, where the fresh variety is hard to find. The film notes it can be frozen, powered, as a jam, or as an extract – and any of those are mostly likely to show up in stores with highly refined specialty produce sections or those dedicated to Asian customers, who will seek it out.