Friday, July 31, 2009

What's in a Name? A Sweet Potato by Any Other Name Would Taste as Sweet...

Yesterday, Hubbs & I finally went grocery shopping (more to escape the heat than to buy groceries, but whatever). I decided to roast some delicious root veg so that I can actually claim to have eaten veggies, even if they're the starchy non-fibrous kind.

Anyway, I wandered around the produce aisles looking for my sweet potatoes, but all I could find were yams. I could have sworn that these were two different root vegetables altogether, but since only yams were available in the "potato" area, I settled for two mid-sized yams.

Ever the curious mind, I decided to google to see if maybe the grocery story mislabeled their veg, or if maybe I was simply mistaken. As it turns out (of course), I was right.

The yam and the sweet potato are two very different starchy root vegetables. Their only similarities are their sweetness and their rooted origins. The true yam does not belong to the potato family, is not grown in N. America, but is quite large in size (up to 3 feet long and 80 pounds), and is a bit dry on the palate. Yams comes in funky colours of white, yellow, and purple. It is truly a root, and I guess its outward texture is quite rough and bark-like. Few places in N. America sell true yams, save for some boutique import grocers.

The sweet potato belongs to the potato family, and is grown on the continent. Its size is larger than the average potato but not several feet in length. Sweet potato texture is moist and soft and, well, sweet. These "morning glory" potatoes are usually orange in colour, and have a smooth skin. Most "yams" sold in N. American grocers are actually sweet potatoes that have acquired this misnomer because of decades-old marketing gimmicks and because some folks were reminded of the yam when they first tasted sweet potato, resulting in the yam moniker.

What I bought was indeed a sweet potato (high in Vitamins A and C), and not a true yam. It appears that the sweet potato is a very healthy root veg and versatile to prepare, so I did make the right nutritional choice after all.

So, the next time you see yams at your local supermarket, keep in mind that unless it's huge and rough-textured and not orange on the inside, you probably have a sweet potato and not a real yam. :)


Linda said...

Sweet potatoes are also filled with estrogenic (estrogen mimicking) compounds that have been known to reduce the rate of cancer (ie breast) and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in women (especially postmenopausal women). That was the worst sentence written...but yea.. you did make the right choice haha ;)

Sy said...

Actually, the yam has the estrogen chemical compound. I work at a compounding pharmacy and we use yam based estrogen in some of our bioidenticals. You know, when women just don't want the horse-pee variety.

I loves me some sweet potato though!!

~Rain``` said...

My daughter and I are BIG fans of sweet potatoes. What a great veggie to feed an infant. And my husband doesn't mind it when I throw in a few chucks with our regular potatoes when I mash them. Yummy!

Have you tried butternut squash? You may like it if you enjoy sweet potatoes.

Linda said...

My bad!

Mixed up too :P

Mrs. Loquacious said...

@Linda & Sy - sweet potatoes are sooo yummy that I'm not even going to care if they do or don't have estrogen-like properties, though maybe messing with my hormones is a bad thing? Anyway, I found yams at T & T Asian Supermarket the other day, but I'm going to stick with sweet potatoes ;) Thanks for the info though, ladies!

@Rain - Good idea about using it as baby food; I can't imagine any baby resisting the deliciousness of sweet potatoes! I will try butternut squash once I can find an easy peasy recipe for it! :D

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