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It’s Sweet Potato Time

It’s Sweet Potato Time

For most people, fall and the holidays wouldn’t seem complete without sweet potatoes. This yummy treat is often confused with the yam. However, the two are actually different vegetables. The sweet potato (what we most commonly eat) is a native of tropical areas of Central and South America and are members of the morning glory family.

True yams are a starchy, edible root that come from West Africa and Asia, and weigh between two and eight pounds and are related to grasses and lilies. Yams have a white to yellow flesh and sweet potatoes are usually yellow to deep orange.

Sweet potatoes require warm climates similar to the southern part of the United States. That’s why here in the U.S, sweet potatoes remain a traditionally southern crop. In order to produce a large enough crop to be grown commercially, sweet potatoes require a great deal of heat and no frost. Most commercial US production takes place in Louisiana and North Carolina.

The confusion between “true” yams and sweet potatoes comes from the fact that over the years, the produce and grocery industries have often used the word “yam” to describe varieties of sweet potatoes that are vivid orange and have a sweet moist flesh.

To add to the confusion, sweet potatoes grown in Louisiana are commonly referred to as “yams,” even by the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission.

When Louisiana producers adopted the Puerto Rican variety of sweet potatoes, which is orange-fleshed, they called them “yams” to distinguish them from the white-fleshed sweet potatoes more common in other parts of the U.S. As a result, “yam” became the trademark for Louisiana-grown sweet potatoes.

Just remember that true yams are not native to the U.S. and are imported here on a limited basis. And the delicious gems you buy at the grocery store or farmers’ market are sweet potatoes.

When choosing sweet potatoes avoid those with soft spots, bruises, or signs of decay. For the best quality and the sweetest flavor, choose those that are firm and well shaped with clean, smooth skins. Sweet potatoes with an orange flesh tend to be more moist and sweeter than lighter colored potatoes.

To ripen a sweet potato, simply leave it out on your countertop until it reaches the desired ripeness. Sweet potatoes must be cooked before eaten and can be boiled, baked, or sauteed and served alone or as a side dish.

Sweet Potato and Apple Bake

4 cups apples, sliced

1 orange/orange juice

4 cups sweet potatoes

Combine 4 cups of sliced apples, the juice from one orange, and 4 cups of sliced sweet potatoes in a casserole or baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until done.

Read more: Eating for Health, Food, Nature, Thanksgiving, Vegan, Vegetarian, , ,

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Judi Gerber

Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.


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4:54PM PST on Mar 8, 2013

I add cooked sweet potatoes to my dogs Chicken and rice home made food. I know how healthy they are and my pets love and dance for their food.(So cute)! They get so excited and eat every drop! I cook 2 breast of chicken with 8-10 cups of water in a large slow cooker over night, (no salt-No spices) then in the morning I take the chicken out and de-bone the chicken and cut into small pieces (it usually just falls apart) then I put the chicken back into the cooker and add 3-cups of rice (brown rice is the best). Then add 1-sweet potatoe cut into very small bits, then continue to cook until rice and potatoes are done. If i'm in a hurry I will just use baby food sweet potatoes on the top of the cooked Chicken and rice. I then store it in containers in the fridge and it will keep for about five days. My pets absolutly love this mixture and are very healthy!

4:18PM PST on Mar 8, 2013

Did you know a produce manager at a Walmart in Virginia did not know the difference between a yam and a sweet potatoe and told me they were the same thing. The display was not labled with a name,only a price. Wow!

10:49AM PST on Mar 5, 2013


6:49PM PST on Mar 3, 2013


5:00PM PST on Mar 3, 2013


8:22AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

are yams as healthy as sweet potato?

8:02AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

5:16AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

Easy but healthy food

2:14AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

thanks for sharing

1:59AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

love sweet potatoes thanks for sharing

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