It’s been said that yams have an identity crisis because more often than not, the “yams” you find in the grocery store are really mislabeled sweet potatoes. So this Thanksgiving, before you say “please pass the yams,” consider this: sweet potatoes and yams are confused all the time, and here in the U.S. the names seem to be used interchangeably, despite the fact that they are two very different items.
To further complicate matters, neither of them are really potatoes—both are tubers, although not even related to each other. In fact, the sweet potato is a cousin of the morning glory flower. There are about 200 varieties of true yams, none of which grow in the U.S.
Yam Or Sweet Potato – How Do You Know Which Is Which?
In spite of all of the confusion, it’s quite easy to tell yams from sweet potatoes:
- Yams have dark, bark-like skins with a white flesh. Some have purple or red flesh. Yams are drier and starchier than sweet potatoes and are even made into flour.
- Sweet potatoes have gold or copper/bronze skins and moister orange flesh.
Yams are high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. Pound for pound, a sweet potato has fewer calories, fat, carbs, potassium, Vitamin C, and fiber than a true yam. Sweet potatoes have more sugar and calcium, and more Vitamin A than a yam (that bright orange color wins out nutritionally).
If you want to try cooking some real yams, look to African or Caribbean recipes, and if you want to be sure you’re getting authentic yams, go to a grocery store that specializes in foods from those regions.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Forget the days of sweet potatoes heaped in a dish and topped with mini marshmallows. This is a sophisticated way to enjoy sweet potatoes that all your Thanksgiving dinner guests will enjoy.
3 cups sweet potatoes, baked, scooped out into a bowl and cooled
1/4 cup white sugar (can be omitted)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup real butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
In a large mixing bowl, combine sweet potatoes, eggs, milk, sugar (if using), vanilla, salt, and melted butter. Mix well with a fork. You can use an electric beater if you’d like. Pour into a baking dish. In a separate bowl, mix topping ingredients together and top sweet potatoes. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F.
White yams (as many as you’d like)
Water for boiling
Dash of salt
First, slice the yam tuber into thick slices. Then remove the peels. Place the slices in a colander and rinse with water. Place in pot with salt and boil for about 25 minutes or until tender. Drain and serve with your favorite stew or soup as a side dish.