I Yam What I Yam...
When I was a child I thought the only way to eat a yam was with marshmallows and lots of brown sugar. I dreaded this dish passed at Thanksgiving. That casserole dish of orange whipped goo.
I love baked sweet potatoes and have often wondered about the different varieties. Is a yam different than a sweet potato?
There is no botanical difference between a "yam" and a "sweet potato". In fact, they are both sweet potatoes. "Yams" are simply a type of sweet potato and were given that name to distinguish them from other types of "sweet potatoes".
There are three features that distinguish "yams" from other sweet potatoes: its skin color, flesh color and moisture content of the potato.
Here are some general characteristics of each:
Skin: Sweet potatoes are usually lighter in color than yams. Color ranges from light yellow or tan. The exception to this rule is the Japanese sweet potato, which has a deep purple skin, but meets the other characteristics of sweet potatoes.
Flesh color: Light yellow to pale orange.
Moisture: Drier than a "yam" and somewhat sweeter.
Skin: Deep red, purplish or dark copper tone.
Flesh color: Deep or vivid orange.
Moisture: Quite moist; almost "mushy". Not as sweet as sweet potatoes.
For a taste test, I picked up three different varieties at the market(listed in photo order top to bottom): "Kotobuki" (or Japanese Sweet Potato), a Jersey (or plain sweet potato) and a Garnet (a "Sweet Yam").
I found the Japanese variety more dry than a traditional sweet potato. The flesh is a light colored and more dense than a traditional sweet potato.
The "Jersey" is my favorite variety and also the classic sweet yam everyone knows of as a sweet potato. This is the variety that is longer and skinner that the other varieties that have the same traditional orange on the inside. It is a moist and soft potato. I love this variety cooked as fries or plain. Delicious and nutritious.
The "Garnet" was good. It is more like a regular potato than a sweet one. It has a light skin with a light yellow inside. If you are craving a sweet potato than this one will disappoint. If you want to try a different variety, this one is delicious. I think it would be a great alternate to use for making mashed potatoes. The flavor reminds me of spaghetti squash. Not as sweet as the squash but similar nonetheless.