Although they are both root vegetables, they come from separate plant families: the sweet potato comes from the morning glory family, while the yam comes from the lily family. Yams, which can grow considerably larger than sweet potatoes, are starchier and less sweet.
The terms "sweet potato" and "yam" are frequently used together in conversation, cooking, and even at the grocery store, yet they are actually two separate vegetables. Although they are both root vegetables, they come from separate plant families: the sweet potato comes from the morning glory family, while the yam comes from the lily family. Yams, which can grow considerably larger than sweet potatoes, are starchier and less sweet. The mislabeling of yams and sweet potatoes in cans and in recipes can cause a lot of misunderstanding. Here's how to tell them apart and properly cook them.
What is a yam?
True yams are the tubers of a tropical vine (Dioscorea batatas) and are not even related to sweet potatoes. With over 150 kinds available worldwide, it is a popular vegetable in African, Latin American, and Caribbean markets. Depending on the species, the yam tuber has brown or black scaly skin that mimics tree bark and off-white, purple, or red flesh. They thrive in tropical regions, most notably in South America and the Caribbean, as well as in Africa, where they originated. They are known as batata, boniato, and ame in Spanish. This tuber, which is generally starchier and less sweet than sweet potatoes, can grow to be over seven feet long and weigh up to 150 pounds in some types.
What is a sweet potato?
Ipomoea batatas' storage root is a sweet potato. They thrive in both warm temperate and tropical climes. They are native to the Americas but are grown all over the world. Today, there are thousands of diverse types. Sweet potatoes are shorter than yams. They often have a bulging centre and tapered ends. Sweet potatoes are divided into two types: firm and soft. Firm sweet potatoes are drier and less sweet, with often pale skin and meat. Soft sweet potatoes are often darker all around, moister, and sweeter. These orange-fleshed varieties are the most usually misidentified as "yams." Sweet potatoes have a nutritional profile comparable to yams, although they are higher in sugar, vitamin A, and beta-carotene. Although the ideal season for sweet potatoes is in the winter, they are available in grocery shops all year.
The use of sweet potatoes and yams
Sweet potatoes and yams are both quite versatile. They can be cooked in a variety of ways, including boiling, steaming, roasting, and frying. Because sweet potatoes are more widely available in supermarkets, they are utilised in a broader range of classic Western cuisines, both sweet and savoury. It is usually baked, mashed, or roasted. It's typically used to produce sweet potato fries, which are a healthier alternative to baked or mashed potatoes. Puréed, it can also be used in soups and desserts. As a Thanksgiving tradition, it's usually served as a sweet potato casserole with marshmallows or sugar, or as a sweet potato pie.
True yams, on the other hand, are rarely found in Western supermarkets. They are, nevertheless, a staple diet in other nations, particularly in Africa. Because of their long shelf life, yams can provide a consistent food source during times of poor harvest. Yams are typically boiled, roasted, or fried in Africa and are quite popular there in the region. Purple yams are more abundant in Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, where they are frequently used in desserts. Yams are available in a variety of forms, including whole, powdered or floured, and as a supplement. Yam flour can be used to produce dough to accompany stews or casseroles. It can also be used in the same way as instant mashed potatoes.