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May 18, 2012 07:59 AM

Yams vs. Sweet potatoes

This may be silly, but it makes me nuts when stores put those orange yams on their shelves and call them sweet potatoes. They are two different root vegetables and I wish they would get it right. Plus, it is almost impossible to get real sweet potatoes at the grocery store. Is this a peeve for anyone else??

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  1. Not a peeve for me, but I think you have it backwards. "Yams" are really a variety of sweet potato. I cannot find "real yams' except at ethnic grocery stores, but both light and dark sweet potatoes are at most supermarkets. The darker/reddish ones are labeled yams, but are a variety of sweet potato.

    1. I thought the same as you did until I did some research. The orange "yams" you see are in fact a type of sweet potato. To continue on with what Alan48 said, real yams are pretty big and you won't find them in standard "Anglo" stores. But in my store you can always find the pale, light yellow fleshed one that you are calling a "real" sweet potato.

      1 Reply
      1. re: escondido123

        Thank you both! I love those jersey sweets!

      2. I love Japanese sweets. Does anyone know if this is a true sweet potato or a yam?

        2 Replies
        1. re: sueatmo

          They are sweet potatoes - Ipomoea batatas

          Same goes for the purple (Okinawa) ones, and the white and red ones sold in Korean markets.

          There are a lot more cultivars that the 2 that are common in US markets

          Japanese 'mountain yam' is something quite different.

          1. re: paulj

            Thanks! I really like the yellow ones.

        2. Depending on the store, grocers here in L.A. will differentiate between sweet potato varieties by referring to the dark red ones as "Garnet Yams" or "Garnet Sweet Potatoes". As escondido123 says, they are not true yams at all. I have found a kind of true yam, the football-sized white-fleshed ones, at some Latino markets, especially ones catering largely to Cubans. You need a good, heavy-bladed knife to cut them into cooking-sized chunks, but they're delicious and very sweet.

          1. Actually, they're both sweet potatoes. For example, if you looked at a can of yams, the fine print on the label will state they're sweet potates. "YAM.... sweet potato".

            The Yam refers to a brand name/cultivar of a sweet potato grown in Louisiana.

            A Navel orange is still an orange, but a special cultivar of an orange.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dave_c

              Hi. Just for the sake of sharing information: Sweet potatoes are of the dicot class. Yams belong to the monocot class. They are two distinct plants/vegetables and not just a cultivar. Here in the U.S., they started calling the orange variety of sweet potato yams to distinguish them from the pale sweet potatoes. However, they're not true yams. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the label "yam" always be accompanied by "sweetpotato."