Yam or Sweet Potato?

October 26, 2012
Derick in Produce

Derick, Produce Manager

There are few things in the Produce Department that causes more confusion than “What is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?” The truth is neither of them is a true yam. The true yam or (nyami) originated in Africa and is a large white fleshed starchy tuber which can grow up to seven feet long! The yellow and orange fleshed potatoes you see in the produce department are both root vegetables which originated in Central America.

Some historians believe that the confusion began in colonial times when Africans recognized some similarities in the orange fleshed sweet potato to the true yam (nyami) from Africa and they became incorrectly known as yams. The name has stuck and caused very much confusion because they are often labeled as both yams and sweet potatoes. The difference between the two main sweet potatoes we sell is in color taste and texture. The yellow fleshed ones are a bit flakier than, and not as sweet, as its smooth orange fleshed ones. The orange fleshed sweet potato is the most commonly called for in many holiday recipes and the same ones found in the can. Phewww.

To summarize, true yams come from Africa and are not typically sold in U.S. markets. The false yams or orange sweet potatoes 99.9% of the time is what you are looking for if your recipe or wife tells you to get yams. The yellow and orange sweet potatoes can be substituted for each other but the most popular and my favorite is the orange one or false yam. Hopefully I have helped and not added to the confusion.