The Sweet Potato vs. The Yam

Ipomoea batatas, Convolvulaceae, Sweet Potato,...
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It seems that most people get confused as to what is a sweet potato and what is a yam! In fact, in the United States, most people use both terminologies to refer to a sweet potato, when neither of these two vegetables is related!

The sweet potato is found in tropical America and is a part of the Morning Glory family.

The yam is a tuber (a bulb) of a tropical vine found in Central & South America, as well as the West Indies, Africa and Asia.

Varieties There are mainly two varieties of sweet potato. The pale sweet potato has a very thin yellow skin with a bright yellow flesh. This variety is neither sweet nor moist, but more the texture of a white baking potato. The darker skinned sweet potato has a thicker orange skin with a sweet moist flesh.

The true yam is not marketed or grown widely in the United States. Where it is marketed, is usually in Latin American markets. A yam can be as small as a potato and can grow as large as 7 feet and weigh over 120 pounds! The flesh can range in color from off-white to yellow to pink to purple! The skin color can be from off-white to a dark brown.

Season Both the sweet potato and the yam are available fresh from October through March.

How to Select When trying to choose a sweet potato, choose a medium sized variety with smooth unbruised skin.

You will want to choose an unblemished yam with unwrinkled skin.

Storage Store your sweet potatoes in a dry, dark 55 degree F (12 – 13 degrees C) area for approximately a month. Otherwise, use your sweet potato within the week. Never place a sweet potato in the refrigerator.

Store your yam in a cool, dark, dry place up to 2 weeks. Never place your yam in the refrigerator.

Nutritional Qualities Sweet potatoes have high Vitamins A and C.

Yams have higher sugar content.

Wine Pairings Depending on what you are serving with your yams or sweet potatoes and as to how you are preparing it, try a Chardonnay, a Fume Blanc, a French Colombard or a Syrah.

Spices Brown sugar, butter, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, lemon juice, lemon peel, mace, marjoram, nutmeg, orange juice, orange peel, poppy seed, sage, savory, thyme.

Equivalencies 1 pound fresh = 3 medium = 3 1/2 – 4 cups cooked and chopped

Preparation A sweet potato can be prepared like a potato: baked, boiled, sautéed, steamed, microwaved, or fried.

A yam can be prepared like a sweet potato!

African Squash and Yams

6 Servings

1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound Hubbard squash, pared and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 yams, or sweet potatoes, pared & cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Cook and stir onion in oil in 10-inch skillet over medium heat until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes longer.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Orange-Glazed Sweet-Potatoes

4 Servings

1 pound sweet potatoes
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tablespoon wheat germ
1 tablespoon margarine
2 tablespoons grated orange peel
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice potatoes about 1/8 inch thick; spread evenly in an 8-inch square dish. Combine orange juice, brown sugar, wheat germ, margarine, orange peel, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cover dish with foil or lid. Bake 1 hour, until potatoes are tender.

Sweet Potato Pie

8 Servings

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup Mashed, cooked sweet potatoes
3 lightly beaten eggs
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pie shell, Unbaked

Cream butter and brown sugar in bowl until light and fluffy. Blend in sweet potato and eggs. Add next 4 ingredients; mix well. Pour into pie shell. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake 35 to 45 minutes longer or until well set.


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