Sweet Potatoes vrs Yams- Which is best for your cooking?

Yesterday Joan posted a comment asking what the difference was between sweet potatoes and yams.  True yams are not widely marketed and are seldom grown in the United States.  Though they can be similar in size and shape to sweet potatoes, yam contain more natural sugar and have a higher moisture content.  On the downside, they are not as rich in vitamins A and C as sweet potatoes.  There are over 150 species of yams grown throughout the world.  They can range in size from that of a small potato to over 7 1/2 feet long and 120 pounds.  Depending on the variety, a yam’s flesh may be various shades of off-white, yellow, purple, or pink, and the skin from off-white to dark brown.  The texture of yams can range from moist and tender to coarse, dry and mealy.  Yams can be found in most Latin markets(and some grocery stores at certain times of the years), often in chunks, sold by weight.  When buying yams, select unblemished yams with tight, unwrinkled skins.  Store in a place that’s cool, dark, and dry for up to 2 weeks.  DO NOT refrigerate.  Yams may be substituted for sweet potatoes in most recipes.

Sweet potatoes are large ediable tubers that belong to the morning-glory family and is native to tropical areas of the Americas.  There are many varietes of the sweet potato but the two most widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and the darker-skinned variety Americans tagged “yam” to distinguish it from its lighter-fleshed kin.  In actuality, the true yam is not related to the sweet potato at all.  The pale sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin and a light yellow flesh.  Its flavor is not sweet and after being cooked, it has a dry and crumbly texture, much like that of a white baking potato.  The darker sweet potato has a thicker skin whick can range incolor from dark orange to pale red.  The flesh, which whick is sweeter and moister than the pale variety, can vary in color from vivid to deep orange.  Fresh sweet potatoes are available year-around, with a peak season in the winter months.  When buying fresh sweet potatoes choose those that are relatively small to medium in size with smooth, unbruised skins.  Sweet potatoes don’t store well unless the environment is just right, which is dry, dark, and around 55  degrees F.  Under perfect conditions they can be stored 3 to 4 weeks.  Otherwise, store in a cool, dark place and use within a week of purchase.  Do not refrigerate.  Sweet potatoes can be substituted for regular potatoes in most recipes.  They can be prepared in a variety of ways including baking, boiling and sauteing.  Sweet potato chips can be found in most grocery stores.  Canned and frozen sweet potatoes are available year-round and are often labeled as yams.  Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A and C.

So what does this all mean?  Well, when it comes to your recipes, I have always liked the way sweet potatoes have cooked either in baking, sauteing, pretty much anything.  The issue with yams is they have more moisture than a sweet potato, which can sometimes change the end result of your recipe.  Yams are higher priced due to the fact that they aren’t widely grown, so if your looking for a budget friendly veggie, sweet potatoes are it.  They are available in most grocery stores all the time, and are easy to use.  I almost always peel them, since the peel can get a little stringy.   Here are a few recipes that might give you some ideas!

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Sweet Chili Glaze

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise inot 1-inch-thick slices

6 TBSP light or dark molasses

2 TBSP light or dark rum

1 TBSP butter

1 tsp minced fresh jalapeno or other chili pepper

Pinch of nutmeg

Salt and black pepper to taste

Prepare a medium-hot gas or charcoal fire.  Cook sweet potatoes in a large pot of boiling water until easily pierced with a fork but still firm, 5 to 8 minutes.  Remove, drain and let cool to room temperature.  Meanwhile, mash molasses, rum, butter, chili, nutmeg, salt and pepper together in a bowl.  Place the sweet potatoes on the grill rack and grill until browned, 4 to 5 minutes on each side.  Brush with the molasses mixture, cook about 30 seconds more on each side, remove to platter and serve.  Makes 4 to 8 servings

Spicy Baked True Yams

2 pounds true yams, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 TBSP light olive or vegetable oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp chili powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Rinse yams and pat dry.  Place pieces in a large roasting pan with oil, salt, pepper and chili powder.  Turn pieces to coat well.  Bke, turning frequently, until browned on all sides, 40-45 minutes.  Add 1/2 inch water to the pan and bake until softened, about 15 minutes more.  Seve warm with butter.  Makes 4 servings.

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