A Yam Is Probably Not a Yam

Thanksgiving is just around the corner! Do you know the difference between a sweet potato and a yam? Here’s something to bring up at your Thanksgiving celebration! In our Wisconsin grocery stores, we are often misled by the signs in the produce department. The dark orange “potatoes” are often called yams, where the lighter orange “potatoes” are called sweet potatoes. Or you often see canned yams. Just for starters, we don’t grow yams in this country; never have! The yam is from Africa and is a member of a tropical herb family. The sweet potato, on the other hand, is ours, coming from the West Indies, and it is a member of the morning glory family.

The original sweet potatoes that Columbus saw in the West Indies were called hatata, and they can still be found in Latin American stores. They are very rich and starchy, almost sweet, although white in color. The name was later applied to what we now know as the potato, another food product that had its roots in America.

If you look in Latin markets you may find yams that have been shipped in from Cuba, Colombia, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. The sweet potato as we know it, including both the light and dark varieties, has been shipped all over the world and is particularly popular in China. The sweet potato is a leading vegetable crop in the world! We produce very little of the total world crop in this country and most Americans see the sweet potato as a Thanksgiving side dish rather than a daily staple!

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy your sweet potatoes!

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