Sweet potatoes or yams?

What's the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? I often get asked this question and I almost always get the answer backwards, so I thought I'd write it down. Sweet potatoes are the tubers you can buy here in the U.S. Pale yellow sweet potatoes, which aren't really sweet (even after cooking), act more like a regular russet potato. Where it gets confusing is with the dark-skinned, orange-fleshed ones -- it's these that are often erroneously called (and labeled, even in cans) "yams" -- including in some DL recipes, such as this really good one for Roasted Yams, Squash, and Chestnuts with Hazelnut Topping. True yams are actually a different species and aren't grown much in the U.S., though you can sometimes find them in Latin American markets (and they are sweet so can be used in place of sweet potatoes). Yams' skin color is usually off-white to light brownish, and the flesh isn't dark like true sweet potatoes (which have more vitamin A & C). So when you see "yams" and they're dark-skinned and dark-fleshed, it's actually a sweet potato. They're a true fave of mine, especially in simple preparations, like Roasted Sweet Potato Fries and the absolutely fabulous Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Citrus and Mascarpone.

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