From cassava to Okinawa Purple

By Thai Newsroom Reporters

OKINAWA PURPLE has quickly become the highest-priced sweet potatoes grown on parched, rainless farmland in the western region of Thailand which may not be very friendly to other types of subterranean food plants.

Given an ex-farm price of no less than 60 baht per kilogramme today, the Okinawa Purple sweet potatoes have prompted many farmers of Huay Krajao district of Kanchanaburi to cultivate the starchy roots in place of cassava. That compares to less than three baht a kilo for cassava and less than 30 baht a kilo for other genuses of indigenous sweet potatoes throughout the country.

Farmer Prayad Keonok who originally spent a single rai of land growing the Okinawa Purple on trial basis has so far expanded his sweet potato farm to five rai of land in a few years, given a lucrative income from the sales of the starchy roots. A merchant has offered to buy all crops from the farmer of Wang Pai subdistrict and load the freshly harvested products onto pickup trucks destined for the markets.

A rai of land yields an average of two tons of the beige-skinned, purple-fleshed sweet potatoes within a period of 75 to 120 days, largely depending on the soil qualities, fertilisers and weather conditions, Prayad said. Given a favourable agricultural environment, the farmer could grow and harvest his subterranean food plant three times in a year. 

Undoubtedly, he has planned to turn more of his cassava plantation into an ever-expanding Okinawa Purple farm which could literally bear edible roots on the poorly-irrigated land of the remote district.

Farmer Ratana Srithungruang was tempted to cultivate a rai of land for the Okinawa Purple surrounded by cassava plantations with intent to expand the sweet potato farm on condition that it bring up a good selling price in a few years’ time. Later in the first year of the trial farming, she gladly changed her mind after the second harvest of the starchy roots had raised 58 to 60 baht a kilo in ex-farm sales.

Now the farmer of Don Salap sub-district has given five rai of land on the Okinawa Purple feeding on chemical fertilisers for specific use with such usually rainless, pest-infested farmland. She said she will no longer hesitate to expand her sweet potato farm if its price remains unchanged or continues to rise even higher than today.

Though there are several Japanese-sounding types of sweet potatoes which can be profitably grown in Thailand, the purple flesh of the product is more commercially interesting to the merchant and palatably tempting to the consumer than the yellow flesh, Ratana said.

The Okinawa Purple has become sort of a regular vegetable in urban kitchens and stylish cuisines of Bangkok and elsewhere. Slices of the parboiled or roasted, purple-fleshed sweet potatoes may be a choice ingredient of a variety of international dishes at restaurants ranging from salads to meaty stews and spicy curries. 

Besides, the Okinawa Purple may be simply roasted, elongatedly sliced and topped up with Miso Tahini sauce as an alternative to the ubiquitous, oil-soaked French fries.


The Okinawa Purple sweet potatoes and tarts made from this delicious root. Photos: Breaking Asia (CC BY-SA 2.0) (

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