Food “Friday”: Yams

22 11 2010

We’re all thinking about food this whole week, now aren’t we, Southerners? So don’t worry… you haven’t missed the whole week. It’s really Monday. But let’s just admit it, and have a full week of “Food Fridays.” Food-related days are among my favorite anyway. Let’s talk about the Thanksgiving classic, yams, today… shall we?

First off, let’s get this business about yams versus sweet potatoes being the same thing — I’ve been mistaken for years, but it turns out, they’re not (thanks to Mr. SIT for pointing out the difference, who has apparently read the entire encylopedia). Now, there’s no harm in calling a sweet potato a yam, but just so we all know there is a difference. They’re from entirely different plant species. (But not to worry too much, even sweet potato manufacturers get confused, labeling sweet potatoes as “canned yams” frequently. But the USDA does now requires they correctly label “sweet potato” somewhere on there, so look closely and you can tell if it’s a real yam or actually sweet potatoes.)

In fact, you’ll probably have to go to a latin-american market even to purchase the real thing. They’re seldom grown in the U.S. Course, if you’re just dead set at only shopping at Publix (and who could blame you with that list!), sweet potatoes can be substituted for yams in most recipes.

  • The yam is from the Dioscorea genus.
  • The word “yam” comes from the Spanish which means “to taste” or “to eat.”
  • Yams are extremely popular in Africa, where they are often eaten as the main course and barbequed, grilled, fried, boiled, smoked, or roasted. Take a cue from these folks and try any one of these variations, rather than the usual casserole. (And if anyone fries, ‘q’s, or grills your yam, we want to hear about it!) Grated yams make great moister in dessert recipes.
  • Yams are similar in size to sweet potatoes, but actually are much moister and sweeter.
  • Yams are full of vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B, potassium and magnesium.
  • Look for shape that is tight and has smooth skin, free of spots.
  • Store yams in a cool, dry place for up to a week. Don’t refrigerate.

Now, you’ll have a great piece of dinner conversation for those Thanksgiving guests.

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