People are often understandably confused about the difference between yams and sweet potatoes.
Real yams are native to Africa and Asia. While you may find real yams in your grocery store, you’re not as likely to see them at your local farmers market. However, you may find sweet potatoes labeled as yams. Compared to real yams, sweet potatoes are sweeter and softer, and are what most people in the United States eat for Thanksgiving dinner.
Here’s the tricky part: There are typically two types of sweet potatoes sold locally. One type has golden skin and paler flesh. It is always labeled as a sweet potato. The second type has coppery skin and orangey flesh. It is sometimes labeled as a sweet potato, and sometimes labeled as a yam. This is the type of sweet potato I’m referring to in this article.
Sweet potatoes are nutritious and filling. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, and beta carotene thanks to their orange flesh. Beta carotene helps to promote healthy skin, eyes and immune system. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of fiber. A diet high in fiber helps you feel fuller throughout the day, promotes a healthy gut, and is associated with a lower risk for diabetes.
To take advantage of all the health benefits sweet potatoes have to offer, buy them when they are in peak season in the fall. Choose sweet potatoes that are firm with smooth skin, and free of dents or blemishes. Look for small to medium sweet potatoes, as larger sweet potatoes tend to be starchier.
Sweet potatoes can be stored for up to five weeks in a cool, dry place. To keep them longer, you can freeze them or preserve them in cubes using a pressure canner.
Sweet potatoes are versatile. They can be baked, boiled, steamed, sauteed, roasted, fried, grilled and even eaten raw. They’re good in soups, salads, casseroles, on sandwiches and on their own. They can be served up as a side dish or as the star of the show. Here are a few suggestions for including sweet potatoes in your diet:
• Bake a sweet potato as you would a regular potato and top with your favorite toppings. Popular combinations include brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and salt, or maple syrup, butter and toasted pecans.
• Cut raw sweet potatoes into 1/4 -inch slices and pop into the toaster. Top with avocado, almond butter or whatever else sounds good to you.
• Toss them in your salad, raw or roasted. They’re good with toasted walnuts, pecans or cashews.
• Puree cooked sweet potatoes with bananas, maple syrup and cinnamon. Top with walnuts.
Whether you call them yams or sweet potatoes, there are lots of options for including them in a healthy, balanced diet that go beyond Thanksgiving dinner.
Launi Johnson is a WSU Clark County Extension Master Food Preserver. For additional recipes, food preservation and food safety information visit http://ext100.wsu.edu/clark/?p=1134. Have questions? Call MFP Helpline: 360-397-6060, ext. 5366.
Spicy Roasted Yams
Source: Chef Scotty. Yield: 4 servings
2 large yams, cut into wedges
1 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon crushed red peppers or cayenne powder
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces silken tofu
2 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest
1/4 cup scallions, sliced thinly
Toss yam wedges with honey, crushed peppers and salt and pepper. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
Blend tofu and lime juice in a high-speed blender until smooth. Stir in lime zest.
Arrange yams on a serving platter and pour dressing over. Top with the scallions.