Oct 082013
 

I don’t know about you, but I was always slightly confused about these nutritious tubers—Sweet potato or Yam?  I knew I liked the Garnet variety, but is it really a yam?   Well, there is a difference—a big one—and we’re going to get to the bottom of it.  ‘Tis the season where these nutritional beauties will be on every end cap at your local grocers.

The sweet potato is yellow or orange tuber that is elongated with ends that taper to a point and are basically available in two varieties. The paler-skinned sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin with pale yellow flesh which is not sweet and has a dry, crumbly texture similar to a white baking potato. The darker-skinned variety, which is most often called “yam” (in error) has a thicker, dark orange to reddish skin with a vivid orange, sweet flesh and a moist texture. These are my favs, the one called Garnet or Jewel.

Yams–The true yam is the tuber of a tropical vine (Dioscorea batatas) and is not even distantly related to the sweet potato. 

Slowly becoming more common in US markets, the yam is a popular vegetable in Latin American and Caribbean markets, with over 150 varieties available worldwide.

So next time you are at the store and see a sign for yams, I would seriously question that, unless you are at an ethnic market. You are almost certainly looking at sweet potatoes. On that note, let’s talk about the Nutrition in Sweet Potatoes.

What is the Nutrition in Sweet Potatoes?

One baked sweet potato (3 1/2 ounce serving) provides over 8,800 IU of infection fighting vitamin A or about twice the recommended daily allowance, yet it contains only 141 calories making it valuable for the weight watcher. This nutritious vegetable provides 42 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C, 6 percent of the RDA for calcium, 10 percent of the RDA for iron, and 8 percent of the RDA for thiamine for healthy adults.  It has more potassium than a banana.  It is low in sodium and is a good source of fiber and other important vitamins and minerals. A complex carbohydrate food source, it provides beta carotene which may be a factor in reducing the risk of certain cancers.  The oranger the flesh, the more the nutritional value.

How to Select and Store Sweet Potatoes

Look for small to medium sweet potatoes. Large ones can be tough. Their skins should be smooth and evenly colored, without cracks or wrinkles.

Sweet potatoes are more delicate than other potato varieties—they have a high sugar content that shortens their shelf life. Keep them in a well-ventilated, cool, dark place where the temperature won’t rise above 55 degrees, such as a cellar or a pantry.

Shelf life: 1 to 2 weeks.

Creative ways to use Sweet Potatoes

  • Roast in cubes with red bell pepper and put over spinach or arugula for a little salad.  Drizzle with light balsamic vinegar.
  • Use your food processor to make a sweet potato, carrot ginger soup.
  • Grate sweet potatoes and mix with cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs, and flour. The result: Seriously flavorful potato pancakes.
  • Have mashed sweet potatoes—microwave or bake potatoes, cool, scoop out potato and mix with orange juice, a little bit of brown sugar, cinnamon and chili powder.

Please enjoy this week’s recipe for fabulous Sweet Potato Fries, made just the way you like them.

I hope that the sweet potato will be entering your kitchen more than at Thanksgiving.  From fries, to chili, stews, and desserts this one is a keeper—year round.  And don’t forget the sweet potato pie!

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