Sitting here at my desk my mind ventured back to last years Thanksgiving dinner. My wife Pam was in the kitchen preparing a feast for our dinner and what a feast it was. We had turkey complete with stuffing, a ham, vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, potato and macaroni salads, the usual cranberry sauce and of course sweet potatoes. No major holiday meal was ever complete without sweet potatoes on the table.
These memories made me think about the differences which exist between the two similar vegetables. There is always a bit of confusion between these two items and in this short rant, I intend to hopefully dispel the myths surrounding this rooted vegetable. The truth of the matter is that the vegetable that you have called a yam for a number of years is actually nothing more or less than a sweet potato. A true yam most people have never seen nor tasted.
That’s right folks; the sweet, orange-colored root vegetable which you cherish so dearly is actually a variety of sweet potato. All “yams” which you find in a grocery store or produce market are in fact not yams at all. The majority of people wrongly believe that those long, red-skinned products in the store are yams, but the fact remains that they are nothing more than one of many varieties of our common sweet potatoes. One wonders how we came to be so confused and wrong on this fine vegetable. To answer this question we would first need to discover the main differences which exist between the two products.
A yam is darker in colored than the its popular orange-fleshed cousin. A true yam is an edible root which is extremely starchy and is usually imported to the United States from the Caribbean. In texture it is rough and scaly and contains very little beta carotene.
Depending on the sweet potatoes variety its flesh can range from a pure white to the popular orange color or in some cases even a purple shade. The orange-fleshed variety arrived in the United States multiple decades ago. In an effort to promote the imported variety and to distinguish it from the white variety, producers and importers labeled the imports with an African word “nyami” and thus called them “yams” for short.