Which are your favorite sunset-hued root vegetables? Sweet potatoes or yams? The answer, it turns out, depends more on different vernaculars than different veggies. "In the U.S., most of the time the words 'sweet potato' and 'yam' are used interchangeably," says Tara Smith, extension specialist at Louisiana State University's AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station. "In the 1930s Louisiana sweet potato producers started labeling their extra-sweet, moist, orange-flesh cultivar a 'yam' to differentiate it from the paler, drier versions cultivated on the East Coast." True yams "are a completely different species than sweet potatoes," says Smith. They're a starchy, bland tuber native to Africa and cultivated in tropical climates.
Available in many varieties, sweet potatoes aren't always orange either. But no matter what you call them or which color you choose, one thing's certain: these ultraversatile root vegetables make delicious additions to entrées, side dishes, and desserts.
1/2 cup cooked sweet potato contains the following:
â?¢Â 125 calories
â?¢Â 4 G fiber
â?¢Â 15,488 mcg beta-carotene
â?¢Â 21 mg vitamin C
â?¢Â 377 mg potassium
SWEET POTATOES 101
Look for these tasty varieties when you shop.
ORANGE FLESHED Beauregard, garnet, jewel
Characteristics Copper to russet skin; bright-orange to reddish-purple flesh; moist consistency and sweet taste
Best Uses Baked or steamed; mashed or puréed in casseroles, cakes, and pies
WHITE Cuban, boniato, yampi
Characteristics Cream to russet skin; cream-colored, mildly sweet, flaky flesh
Best Uses Great in savory dishes, especially Latin or Caribbean fare
Characteristics Petite size; whitish skin; purple flesh; starchy, dry texture; sweet flavor
Best Uses Add steamed chunks to a stew; best option for oven fries