Thursday, November 8, 2012

Is it a Yam or is it a Sweet Potato?

When we were in Myrtle Beach locally grown sweet potatoes were for sale everywhere, even at Walmart. Much like regular potatoes are in PEI. So when we came upon this little market we decided to stop and purchase some for dinner.
Since we appeared to be in the land of sweet potato experts, I asked BJ what the difference was between a yam and a sweet potato. None, he said. Really? I had to follow up on that.

What I found out is that yams are from Africa and Asia and while they are a root vegetable they are very different botanically from what we call yam. They are starchier and drier. They are a member of the lily family and are not imported into North America.

Sweet Potatoes are a member of the morning glory family and were originally imported to the US from Peru. They can have either firm or soft flesh and come in a variety of colours from very pale to dark yellow.

So why the confusion? In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties.

So essentially, BJ was right. In the US and Canada there is no difference between sweet potatoes and yams.

I decided to make stuffed sweet potatoes for supper. Essentially, I baked the potatoes, removed the fleash - very carefully, sweet potato skins are much more fragile than regular potatoes -mashed it with a small amount of cream, chopped parsley, chopped, cooked bacon, butter and grated parmesan cheese and baked at 400F until heated through. Same as for the Lobster-Stuffed Baked Potatoes we made in PEI.
You could also sprinkle chopped, toasted pecans on top - yum


  1. Humm now you have me hungry :)

  2. Thanks for the explanation Anne. Small wonder the public (and me) are confused between the two. Cheers. Dave


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