General Question

desberg's avatar

What is the difference between a Sweet Potato and a Yam?

Asked by desberg (169points) October 14th, 2007
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

15 Answers

Perchik's avatar

If you use a search engine and type in “sweet potato yam difference” you will get a bunch of results. I’m not doing it for you. google search

andrew's avatar

Yams are trademarked, I believe. It’s sort of like the whole Champagne/Sparkling Wine thing. But the google search will tell.

gailcalled's avatar

@Andrew: It’s a root thing. They are different geni- but I will let desberg do his own searching ,

bob's avatar

I wish someone would tell me.

When I see yams and sweet potatoes in the super market, are they both really sweet potatoes? I think they are—they are just orange sweet potatoes.

But yams which are different from sweet potatoes do exist.

I think this is actually a good question.

itsnotmyfault1's avatar

Yeah, the point of this website is to have PEOPLE answer your questions, not google.
why not just answer him

Personally, i’ve always just assumed they were the same thing

gailcalled's avatar

Botanically, “yam is the common name for some species in the genus Dioscorea . These are perennial herbaceous vines cultivated for the consumption of their starchy tubers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. They are used in a fashion similar to potatoes and sweet potatoes.Yam tubers can grow up to 7’ and in weigh up to 150 pounds,” making Hoss’s zucchini look like a toothpick.

Sweet patooties look similar and are prepared identically but they (Ipomoea batatas), commonly called yams in parts of the US (especially in the southern and western portions of the country) are a crop plant whose large, starchy, sweet tasting tuberous roots also are an important root vegetable.

The genus that contains the sweet potato also includes… morning glories.

Cribbed from Wikipedia. I MW both and find that yams often taste more woody.

peggylou's avatar

Perchik: I’m sure you are correct about using a search engine. But I would not have thought that I could search for your given question: “sweet potato yam difference.” I simply do not have enough practice to know how to properly enter the question into the search engine. I would enter “sweet potato” or “yam” but adding “difference” would not have occurred to me. As a result, I can either spend more time focusing on learning how to best address Google, or I can ask Fluther. I do that because I will end up spending 1–1/2 hours trying to find it with a search engine.

gailcalled's avatar

Peggylou; you are underestimating yourself. Google sweet potato, open the Wickipedia link, then click on the hyperlink yam, for example. It takes about 5 seconds.

Or try it the other way: Google yam, and that will lead you to sweet potato.

There is also a link at the bottom of the Google page that says “search within results.” And a box to type in; then click on the search button. Experiment; nothing ventured, nothing gained. If I can do it, anyone can :-)

bob's avatar

Right, but I read the articles and was still confused. But I think I’ve figured it out:

There are three plants in question:

1. Sweet Potatoes (yellow)

2. Sweet Potatoes (orange, which we call “Yams” in the US)

3. Yams (the real deal, which look something like orange sweet potatoes, but which you can’t normally buy at the grocery store in the US)

So when you’re at the grocery store, you’re buying sweet potatoes, even if the sign says “Yams.” In the US, “Yams” are a certain variety of sweet potatoes.

I think that’s a reasonably complex distinction, and the wikipedia entry doesn’t clarify the issue quite as well as it could. It’s a research question, but not a simple Google search (unless you really know what you’re looking for and are prepared to do some reading up on yams).

There are lots of questions that could be answered if the asker researched the topic. But simply asking, rather than doing the primary research, is part of the purpose of Fluther. (The other purpose of Fluther is to get answers to questions that can’t be researched, but both purposes seem very reasonable.)

I get annoyed by dumb questions as often as anyone else. But I like this one.

Can someone tell me if I’m right about the yams?

gailcalled's avatar

I will ask the produce manager at my market. There are things labeled “sweet potatoes” and sligthly different things labeled “yams.” Maybe they are the same. but there are also subsets of organic sp’s and organic y’s.

andrew's avatar

The only evidence I have of this is anecdotal (after discussing it over thanksgiving), but when someone serves you an orange-y, starchy tuber at thanksgiving and calls it a “Yam”, you’re actually eating a Sweet Potato. The story that I remember is that a group of farmers from South Carolina (?) trademarked their sweet potatoes as “Yams” to increase their branding. I’ll look for evidence now.

andrew's avatar

From (found after extensive google searching):

’“Yam” also refers to sweet potatoes that are grown in Louisiana. When the orange-fleshed, Puerto Rican variety of sweet potatoes was adopted by Louisiana producers and shippers, they called them “yams” to distinguish them from the white-fleshed sweet potatoes grown in other parts of the country. The yam reference became the trademark for Louisiana-grown sweet potatoes.’

So I was wrong: it seems to be Louisiana sweet potatoes that started the whole Yam misnomer.

joli's avatar

All I know is they’re really tasty cooked with the skin on, then mashed and swirled with butter, olive oil, a little milk and salt and peppered on top. YUM! (Oops. I forgot to throw in the walnut pieces!)

gailcalled's avatar

For masochists; taxonomy

elgnim's avatar

Most, but not all, of the previous responses are useful; however, there are three culinary issues that you should consider. Sweet potatoes (SPs) are…well…sweet; yams (Ys) are starchy. SPs are very nutritious; Ys aren’t. SPs are grown in the US (especially California, where they are used to make sugar); Ys come primarily imported from the tropics. I used to be concerned that the store’s produce manager didn’t know the difference. While that is occasionally still true, most of the time, stores label them properly. It pays to ask.

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