Sweet Potato vs. Yam: Which is Which?!
by Nicole Figura
Like most of you, we have been wondering the same question for a while now: what is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?
In the U.S. and Canada, the names seem to be used interchangeably as they're both tubers yet two very different items. Which is why we went on a quest to find the answer once and for all!
(Photo Source: Simply Recipes)
- Originated in South or Central America
- Can be eaten raw
- Leaves can be cooked just like the greens from carrot or beet tops
- Can be found in most grocery stores
- In season from late fall through early spring
- Excellent source of beta carotene, vitamin C, and potassium
- Skin: thin, softer, orange/brown/reddish/purple, may have fine roots
- Flesh: moister, creamier, some can be firm, orange/white/purple/yellow
- Flavor: sweet
Ways to Enjoy
(Photo Source: Solid Starts)
- Grows up to 45 feet long
- Originated in Latin America, West Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia
- Must be cooked before eating because they are toxic when eaten raw
- Leaves and stems are also poisonous and must be removed
- Can only be found in speciality stores
- Can buy from June until October with limited supply available in late autumn
- Great source of fiber, potassium, manganese, copper, and antioxidants
- Skin: dark/brown, bark-like, rough
- Flesh: usually white/pale, some purple or red, drier, starchier
- Flavor: earthy, neutral but could be sweet or bitter
Ways to Enjoy
Why The Mix-Up?
The mix-up between yams and sweet potatoes originated from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. In the Americas, where yams were not readily available, sweet potatoes, which had traveled from Central America with Christopher Columbus, took their place. Sweet potatoes became one of several transfer foods, allowing enslaved peoples to preserve their traditions and spiritual practices even in the face of captivity and abuse.
The yam and sweet potato confusion was further complicated due to a marketing campaign. To distinguish a new variety of sweet potatoes from their East Coast counterparts, the Louisiana sweet potato industry started using the term “yam.”
Yams and sweet potatoes are not the same and we should stop interchanging them and start correcting others. Share the knowledge!