Sweet Potatoes and Yams

Green Cuisine does a lot of things with yams as well as sweet potatoes. There are the lovely chilli yam bakes, and the African sweet potato and groundnut stew, for instance. Do you know the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are delicious. That we know. You can bake them, fry them, roast them, put them in soup, etc. At the grocery store, sweet potatoes are yellow, red, purple or brown on the outside and white, yellow, or orange inside.

There are actually two varieties of sweet potatoes. The sweet potato variety with copper-hued skin and orange flesh are the soft sweet potatoes, because when cooked, they become creamy and soft. The sweet potatoes that maintain a firmness to them while still being tender when cooked are the ones with yellow skin and pale flesh.

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These are often referred to as “yams” but are actually sweet potatoes.

Yams

What you find denoted as “yams” at the grocery store are actually sweet potatoes. There, I said it.

But what are marketed as yams are actually the soft sweet potatoes-the ones that are copper on the outside and orange to orangey-red inside and become soft when cooked. In order to distinguish between the soft sweet potatoes and the firm sweet potatoes, producers decided to call the soft sweet potato a yam.

So What is a Real Yam?

Actual yams are also edible tubers like the sweet potato, but these vegetables are grown in Africa, South America, Oceania and Asia. However, these authentic yams usually aren’t found in local grocery stores in the west. According to Wikipedia, yams are “perennial herbaceous vines”.

Yams are important in Africa as some varieties can store as long as six months without refrigeration. During periods of the year where there is food scarcity, yams provide sustenance to the population. The majority of the world’s yam production comes from West Africa. In Nigeria and Ghana, there are festivals that celebrate the yam.

There are many different varieties of actual yams. This is a purple yam.

There are many different varieties of actual yams. This is a purple yam.

Authentic yam tubers are starchier than sweet potatoes, and not as moist.

You’ve Likely Just Had a Different Kind of Sweet Potato

In summary, unless you’ve picked up an authentic yam when you were in another country, or from an ethnic grocery store, you’ve only ever had sweet potato, albeit of a different variety. So, the chilli yam bakes at Green Cuisine are actually the soft sweet potato, but the name doesn’t really matter, because they are nutritious and tasty nonetheless.