Difference Between a Sweet Potato & Yams

Hello Conscious Eaters,

I was celebrating an early Thanksgiving this weekend when this question arose.  I knew the answer once in my life but could not remember the specifics.

Along with the trivia I wanted to pass along my Yam recipe/ or sweet potato, you decide:)

Sweet potatoes, indigenous to Central America, are a totally different plant family from yams.  They are a member of the genus that Sweet potato contains morning glories, and when the plant is in flower, the flowers look like morning glories. They are only distantly related to the potato, which is indigenous to Peru. There are seven varieties of sweet
potato. The moist, sweet flesh can be white, yellow, orange or purple. The smooth, thin skin can be orange-brown, red, purple or white. Sweet potatoes are blocky, with tapered

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes made their way north from Peru and Ecuador and have been grown by native Americans, and subsequently cultivated in the southern U.S., since Colonial times. There are two different varieties of this sweet potato, which will explain why some sweet potatoes aren’t so
sweet, or so colorful. The paler-skinned sweet potato is softer with a thin, light yellow skin and pale yellow flesh; it has a dry, crumbly texture similar to a white baking potato. The harder, darker-skinned sweet potato is that which we generally think of when we think of that sweet,orange flesh with the sweeter flavor. These two varieties, commonly
available in supermarkets, further confuse consumers. Might the more
orange-fleshed one be a sweet potato and the pale-fleshed one a yam? Nope.


Authentic yams are white-fleshed, starchy tubers that come from Africa. They have rough, scaly skin and are long and cylindrical—some with a split bottom creating “toes.” Their flesh is dry and starchy. They grow long—at
the extreme, up to seven feet in length—and are cut and sold in sections.

Here’s how the colorful sweet potato, indigenous to South America, took on the name Nyamiof the nyami (Anglicized to yam), the totally unrelated starchy tuber from Africa.

The confusion began in the Antebellum era. The African slaves called the softer sweet potatoes cultivated in America “yams” because they resembled the nyami they knew from home. There were no nyami in America at the time: African and Caribbean immigrants wouldn’t cause import of real nyami, the
white-fleshed African yam, to America until the latter 20th century, when they would appear in international grocery stores. By that time, most of America had only known “yams” as yellow-fleshed potatoes that weren’t particularly sweet. Some myths went so far as to say that yams were older
sweet potatoes, after the sugar had converted to starch and the morecolorful flesh had faded.

The recipe

4 Yams — boil for 10-15 minutes first
1/2 teaspoon organic butter
3/4 cup brown sugar or sucanat
1 cup Tangerine Juice
1/4 teaspoon Rum Extract
2 T of honey
1 teaspoon of allspice
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Carmelized walnuts


Boil the Yams for 10-15 minutes until you can stick a fork into them.
Heat oven to 350 deg F.
In a shallow baking pan arrange yam halves; Melt butter with the sugar, rum, and tangerine juice, pour over potatoes.  Place in oven for 10 minutes.
Saute walnuts with honey,coconut oil or olive oil and cinnamon.
Remove from oven; scatter walnuts over top of yams; return to oven for another 5 minutes. Can be served at room temp or chilled.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving,
Blessing, Heather

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