Sweet Potatoes vs Yams
Being that it is Thanksgiving week, many of you will no doubt be whipping up the classic American dish of sweet potato casserole with an ooey gooey marshmallow topping. And to make it a little more confusing, you will probably purchase a few cans of yams to make this dish. I’ll spare you on reasons why I would advocate you to try something a little more creative and natural and instead stick with explaining the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.
So let’s break it down.
A yam is a vegetable or tuber that is primarily grown in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Yams are not grown in America. There are around 600 different varieties of yams, some of which can grow to be around 8 ft long. They have gray/brown thick bark looking skin with white starchy flesh. They are less sweet than a sweet potato. Chances are you have never seen an actual yam. What Americans call yams are actually all sweet potatoes. It started long ago when the slaves were brought over and identified sweet potatoes with the “nyami” from Africa. Americans have been calling the orange-fleshed variety of sweet potatoes “yams” since colonial times when Africans saw familiarities in them to the tuberous variety.
The Sweet Potato
Although most Americans think that sweet potatoes are only like the one pictured above, sweet potatoes come in many different varieties. They can range from purple, red, yellow, brown or white skin colors with white, yellow or dark orange flesh. There are soft varieties and firm varieties. The orange soft variety of sweet potatoes are commonly mistaken as yams. However, yams and sweet potatoes are not even related botanically. Since the name “yam” has stuck the USDA has required that all items that are called yams sold in the US must also be labeled as sweet potatoes.
Oh America, the land with words that mean many different things and a language that is more confusing than learning Chinese. Happy Thanksgiving!