Sweet Potatoes and Yams – Consider Different Varieties 


Instead of the same old super high calorie candied yam or baked sweet potato dish for your holiday meal.  Consider serving a colorful sweet potato / yam medley at your festive feast.  Did you know that there are many varieties of sweet potatoes and yams with their own unique color, texture, nutrition mix and taste?  The surprisingly tasty blend will offer your family, friends and other invited guests a delectable treat and something unexpected about food to discuss. 

Some of our favorites are the purple sweet potato, Japanese sweet potato, jewel yam and garnet yam. Discover your favorite and share it with us.

 Purple Sweet Potatoes 

Purple Sweet Potato



Garnet yam (left) with Japanese sweet potato (right) 

While you are considering which to try, here are tidbits of knowledge you can share with others while dining…

Sweet potatoes and yams are mistakenly considered the same vegetable.  But, they are in fact, very different from each other: 

  • Sweet potatoes are prehistoric roots that are originally from Peru and Equador, but now also grown in southern Florida, Louisiana, California and other tropical climates.  Sweet potatoes are pale with yellow skin and yellow flesh OR have orange skin.  The flesh of a sweet potato is moist and sweet, and high in vitamin A (a powerful antioxidant).  They also contain vitamin C, calcium, iron, and the B vitamin thiamine.  Plus they are high in fiber and relatively low in calories. Even though a sweet potato is not the same plant as a yam, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows the word yam to be used with the word sweet potato.  In fact, most “yams” sold in most U.S. grocery stores are actually “sweet potatoes.” And, we wonder why we are confused….
  • Yams are tubers/bulbs that date back to 50,000 BC and grow on vines.  Yams originated in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and the West Indies.  Yams have rough, scaly skins that range in color from off white to dark brown. Yam flesh can range from off white, yellow, pink to purple. The flesh of a yam is more dry and starchy than a sweet potato.  In the United States, true yams are only sold in ethnic food markets rather than traditional U.S. grocery stores.

Note that it is easy to get confused when picking potatoes:

  • White sweet potatoes have a similar appearance to regular white potatoes.  
  • Garnet yams (reddish orange in color) are easily mistaken to be jewel yams (slightly lighter orange color).  
  • Easy to mistake a Japanese sweet potato (purple skin with white flesh) for a purple sweet potato (purple skin purple flesh).  

So, be certain to shop at a grocery store with employees who have separated from each other and properly labeled all varieties of potatoes, and who are trained to know and point out the differences.