What is the difference between a Sweet Potato and a Yam?

I love the eight days of Passover because it allows me to get creative in the kitchen.  One food that I discovered when I first moved to St. Louis and introduced to my girls at a very early age, is the sweet potato.  Did you know that one cup of cooked sweet potatoes provides a rich source of beta carotene or Vitamin A and are a great source of Vitamin E, yet completely fat-free?  Sweet potatoes provide many other essential nutrients including Vitamin B6, ( 950 gm) potassium and iron. Sweet potatoes are a good source of dietary fiber (6.6 gm), even more than a bowl of oatmeal.  Sweet potatoes are a complex carbohydrate which means they digest more slowly than white potatoes and therefore will not cause your blood sugar to spike. About 1 cup of cooked sweet potatoes provides 180 calories without any fat, cholesterol or sodium.  Sweet potatoes are very inexpensive, running about $1.50 per pound.  Ninety percent of the ‘yams’ in the produce section are actually sweet potatoes.  So what is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?  Yams are tubors that are grown in the tropics, mainly the Caribbean, where sweet potatoes are roots grown in the US.  Sweet potatoes are a member of the morning glory family and the peak season of their crop is at the end of summer, around August.  The bulk of the crop is held in a heated, humidity-controlled environment for about a week. This “cures” the potato and converts much of its starch to dextrin and sugar.  This is the type of sweet potato you buy the remainder of the year.  A cured sweet potato is actually much sweeter than an uncured one.  There are actually two other varieties of sweet potatoes; the red sweet potato and the white sweet potato.  These potatoes have a shorter season, but much sweeter than the other sweet potatoes (often labeled yams in the produce section).  The great thing about sweet potatoes is that they can be boiled, mashed, baked, canned, fried or microwaved.  When my two older girls were infants, I would bake sweet potatoes, put them in the blender with breast milk, and freeze them in ice cube trays.  You can imagine how many ice cubes this could make and it was so much cheaper than buying baby food.  Charli is going to be so lucky someday soon!  My older girls still love sweet potatoes, baked, with a little butter, cinnamon-sugar, it is the best!  They also love when I make them in a casserole for Thanksgiving with the little mini marshmallows melted on top.  I love sweet potato fries!  And they are so easy to make.  You just peal the potato, cut into strips, marinate with olive oil, a little garlic salt and cinnamon and it is the perfect side dish for any meal.  Instead of strips, you can also cut them into large cubes.  My mother-in-law does this and then adds roasted vegetables.  It makes a great dish to bring to a dinner or pot luck.  However, sweet potatoes are not only a vegetarian favorite, they also make a great kugel during Passover.  I brought this one to our annual Passover dinner at my sister-in-laws.  It was a huge hit.  So next time you are in the potato section in the produce isle, check out the variety of sweet potatoes, and pick up a few for tonight’s dinner.  Your family may surprise you and actually like them.

Sweet Potato Kugel

Ingredients:

3 large sweet potatoes-cooked and peeled

3 small red gala apples-cooked and pealed

2/3 cup raisins

¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup

½ cup orange juice

2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

Cook sweet potatoes by boiling until soft.

Cook apples by boiling until soft.

Remove the skin from both.

In food processor combined potatos, apples, juice, syrup and cinnamon.

Fold in the raisins.

Place mixture in a baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Serve warm.

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