When it comes to knowing the difference between sweet potatoes and yams, it can get confusing! A simple distinction is to know that what is commonly marked as a “yam” is actually a sweet potato that was grown in the Southern United States. Generally speaking, the terms are used interchangeably, but the United States Department of Agriculture requires that the label “yam” always be accompanied by “sweet potato” for clarification.
Here is a more detailed distinction of the two:
Sweet potatoes are a tropical root vegetable in the Morning Glory plant family and have smooth skin. They are mostly grown in the Southern United States and California and come in two varieties: pale and dark. The pale sweet potato has a thin yellow skin and a bright yellow flesh. This variety is neither sweet nor moist, but more the texture of a white baking potato. The dark sweet potato has a thicker orange skin with a sweet moist flesh. They taste sweet and are a rich source of beta-carotene and other nutrients.
The yam, on the other hand, is a tuber (bulb), with scaly or rough skin and is typically grown on a tropical vine found in Central & South America as well as the West Indies, Africa and Asia. The true yam is not marketed or grown widely in the United States. The skin color can be anywhere from off-white to dark brown and the flesh may range from off-white to yellow or pink to purple. The yam contains low amounts of beta carotene and tastes dry and starchy.
Nutritionally, sweet potatoes are considered a complex carbohydrate, a good source of dietary fiber, are fat and cholesterol free and are very low in sodium. One serving or one medium sweet potato is rich in beta carotene (vitamin A) a group of red, orange and yellow pigments called carotenoids which have antioxidant properties that can possibly help fight disease. Eating one serving meets your daily need for vitamin A and provides a third of vitamin C you need for the day. When eaten with the skin, this potato provides more fiber than oatmeal. Other important nutrients found in sweet potatoes include vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron.
Choosing and storing sweet potatoes: Choose firm potatoes that are small to medium in size with smooth, unblemished skins. If you do not plan to use the potatoes right away, store them in a cool, dry, dark place. Do not refrigerate sweet potatoes, as they will dry out.
Sweet potatoes are versatile and delicious when used in recipes such as dips, smoothies, soups, stews, salads, casseroles, breads and muffins. You could also try roasting some with a little olive and other vegetables. Bake them as fries or place on top of homemade pizza. Season them with different herbs and spices like ginger, garlic, curry, rosemary, cinnamon or nutmeg.
Try these Recipes:
– Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
Roast sweet potatoes and red bell peppers together for a delicious mingling of flavors and then place over a bed of spinach or arugula and sprinkle with white balsamic vinegar. Serve this as side dish or add goat cheese and grilled chicken for a satisfying lunch.
– Oven Baked Sweet Potatoes
Preheat oven for 400 degrees F. Clean and puncture with fork- 8 unpeeled medium sweet potatoes. Bake in oven 45-60 minutes. Cut potatoes in half and place 1 tbsp. of butter/margarine, salt, pepper to taste and sprinkle cinnamon on each piece.
– To prepare baked sweet potatoes in your microwave
Prick the potatoes all over with a fork. Microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender, turning the potatoes once.