After a recent conversation with a colleague regarding the difference between sweet potatoes and yams with no real conclusion, I felt compelled to get to the bottom of this.
First, in the United States, yams, an edible tuberous root vegetable, are actually sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas), a member of the bindweed or morning glory family, Convolvulaceae. Sweet potatoes can range in shape, size, and color, and will have a tapered end. On the other hand, botanically different, the true yam is the common name for some of the plants in the Dioscoreaceae family. This root has a very thick, bark-like skin with dense, dry flesh which can range from white/yellow/purple or pink - not orange, and can grow to over a hundred pounds. Completely different vegetables, neither are actually a "potato" which is in the nightshade family.
So how did this confusion begin? Very simply, as part of a marketing strategy. Producers and shippers branded the sweet, orange fleshed sweet potato being grown in the south as 'yams' to differentiate it from it's lighter relatives grown in the north. Often mislabeled in our fresh produce aisle, the USDA actually requires that 'Yam' is followed by 'sweet potato' on shipping box labels - most canned products do adhere to this requirement.
If seen in the market, true yams are typically imported from the Caribbean, Asia and Latin America and can usually be found in ethnic grocery stores. Note: Unlike sweet potatoes, these tubers can be toxic if not cooked thoroughly.
So next time you gather with family, pass the sweet potatoes please and enjoy.
For more information and to register for this workshop go to: http://ucanr.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=28200
We often don't think about the journey our food encounters before it reaches us - from harvesting, transporting, market to fellow consumers like yourself who may give it a squeeze before it goes home with you. Each of these processes invite potential bacteria and viruses to be introduced to the peel.
When you cut into the fruit, you could move any present pathogens from the outside to the inner goodness you intend to eat. Some of the bacteria could make you sick.
The UC ANR Publication #8121 states that when possible, scrub fruits and vegetables with a clean scrub brush or with hands to remove excess dirt and germs. Be sure to then dry your fruits and vegetables with disposable paper towels. It is not necessary to use antibacterial soaps or dish detergents to wash fruits and vegetables because soap or detergent residues can remain on the produce. To prevent cross contamination, do not soak fruits and vegetables.
So before you treat yourself to those delicious, buttery green fruits, be sure to take a couple of minutes and exercise caution following the steps above to ensure a good time with no regrets.
To learn more, go to the UC ANR Nutrition, Personal Finance, and Food Safety website.
Rather than the ever popular citrus varieties that could potentially be one of the citrus greening disease casualties, check out this informative website and learn about fruit tree alternatives to consider planting.