A Tuber Worthy of a Feast
By Kathy Conner Cornell VCE Southside Master Gardener I do enjoy sweet potatoes and just a plain baked sweet potato with some butter. The taste is so good it doesn’t need all that sweet stuff in my opinion. It has commonly been thought that it was Columbus who first brought the sweet potato from the Caribbean to Europe but the sweet potato had traveled much earlier. But first let us clear up the real difference between a yam and a sweet potato. I’ve read that people tend to think of the sweeter orange types as sweet potatoes and the whiter drier types as yams. That has not been my experience. I’ve found that the smaller sweet potatoes are called just that and the larger ones are referred to as yams, generally with disgust. In actuality they are both sweet potatoes. Yams come from Africa and are enormous, up to five feet long. According to the University of Missouri “Yams (Dioscorea species) are perennial herbaceous vines cultivated in tropical regions of the world for their starchy tubers”. Yams are rarely sold in American markets. Sweet potatoes Ipomea batatas are in the Convolvulaceae or morning glory family and hail from South America.