Many struggle to understand the nuances of yam vs potato, whether sweet or regular potatoes. It’s clear to see why many people are confused by the difference between yams and potatoes, given their initial similarities. Still, a deeper dive into their appearance, characteristics, and uses makes it clear they are similar yet not identical.
All potatoes are relatively straightforward to grow and contain a good range of vitamins and minerals, though different varieties nutritionally exceed others in certain areas. While yams are primarily associated with the holiday season, sweet potatoes are more readily available and easy to find year round, alongside regular potatoes in grocery stores.
Whether you’re debating which kind of potato to add to your garden, seeking a potato substitute for yams, or want to expand your knowledge, this article explores how yams and potatoes differ and how they are best used.
All About the Difference between Yams and Potatoes
Some people choose which kind of potatoes to sample based on the color of the yam or sweet potato’s flesh. When choosing yam vs potato, beyond the fundamental difference between yams and potatoes, flesh color plays an important role.
There are several nutritional advantages to white potatoes and white yam varieties. Compared to their more colorful brothers, they have a little more potassium and fiber. Yams with deep orange flesh color offer beta-carotene, which provides the body with carotenoids to make vitamin A.
On the other hand, yams and sweet potatoes with yellow, orange, or purple hues are rich in complex carbohydrates and antioxidants like vitamin C and A. Whether you’re looking for a potato to substitute for yams or trying an array of tubers, understanding sweet potatoes and yams helps you make an educated decision.
Yam vs Potato Appearance
The physical appearance differs between yams vs potatoes. True yams have rough bark-like skin and are usually a darker red-brown color with dry, starchy deep orange flesh. Potatoes are typically smaller than yams, with smooth tan or brown colored skin and characteristic soft flesh.
Recognizing these root vegetables helps ensure you get the right one for your recipe. In addition to commonly seen types, other yams and potato varieties exist in different colors, shapes, and sizes.
Origins of Yams and Potatoes
Despite their similarities, these two root vegetables come from different plant families. Yams belong to the Dioscorea classification, while potatoes are a part of the nightshade family. Sweet potatoes or Ipomoea batatas belong to the morning glory family.
The regular potato is a starchy tuber growing from the perennial Solanum tuberosum plant. This root vegetable originates from the Americas, with wild potato cultivars still found from the south of the United States to Chile.
The candied yams served with marshmallows in many households are often improperly labeled sweet potatoes. Yams are not readily available in most grocery stores, which may require a trip to a specialist or import store to obtain them, particularly some rare varieties. However, some sweet potatoes are marketed as yams in the US, particularly around the holidays.
Regular potatoes are always well-stocked on grocery store shelves and often come in a few varieties, such as large bakers, new potatoes, and even red-colored potatoes. These much-loved tubers are a staple in many households, with a large amount of the commercial crop grown in North Carolina.
Varieties of Potatoes
From baked sweet potato to tasty fries or mashed potatoes, potatoes are delicious and colorful. Potatoes are widely accessible, and many grocery stores offer some variety in cultivars. Regular potatoes are the easiest to procure, with sweet potatoes following shortly after, whereas yams are challenging to find.
All potatoes are delectable starchy and creamy vegetables with tender flesh when cooked. Their smooth skin and delicate interior make them palatable and appealing to many.
Did you know that you can easily grow potatoes from eyes at home? You don’t even need a plot of land – a 5-gallon bucket works fine. Note that it takes 100-120 days for potatoes to reach maturity, so plan your planting time accordingly.
If you are on a low-carb diet or need to manage what you eat because of diabetes, parsnips are healthier than potatoes and have a similar flavor profile.
Types of Yams
Yams come in many types, ranging from the more easily obtained American varieties to tropical yams that are impressively colored and more difficult to acquire.
The yam is a root vegetable worth exploring with many differences in color and flavor. Popular in countries like Africa, Asia, and South America, this nutritious veggie adds substance and color to your plate. As long as you live in the right climate, it’s just as easy to grow a yam plant as it is a sweet potato or regular potato.
The varieties of yams available for sampling are diverse in color, texture, and taste, and several types of yams have unique qualities. Yams are loved worldwide and are a fantastic way to add an amazing bite or a hint of the exotic to your cooking.
Are Potatoes a Substitute for Yams?
Many cooks are curious if they can use yams to substitute for potatoes and vice versa. Though they share some similarities, yams and potatoes are generally not interchangeable in a recipe – at least not without drastically altering the dish’s flavor, color, and texture. The same applies to most varieties of sweet potatoes.
These flavor profiles and textures are almost opposites – not desirable characteristics for substitutions. Yams are dry and starchy with a more earthy taste, while potatoes are soft-fleshed and creamy. Using a potato in a dish calling for yam might produce too much starchiness and an overly mushy texture.
The Nutritional Value of Yams vs Potatoes
Yams and potatoes are high in carbs; though the yam is lower on the glycemic index than white potato, neither is a high GI food. Both potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, A, and C, which helps reduce incidences of heart disease.
Yams and potatoes provide crucial minerals such as magnesium and calcium and help keep blood sugar stable, thanks to their high fiber content. Cup for cup, yams are more nutritionally dense than white potatoes.
Selecting and Storing Yams and Potatoes
Potatoes and yams should be solid without mushy areas or splits so you don’t have to worry about rotten potato smell. While some roughness on the skins is expected, anything bordering on soft or wrinkled may indicate a potato has seen better days. Look for vibrant colors in red or colored potatoes, as this shows freshness.
Potatoes survive a month if kept in a dark, cool (but not cold) environment. Lifespan shortens to a week when kept at ambient temperature.
Yams are best consumed within a few weeks and do well stored in a cool, dry area. They have a shelf life of 5-7 days at room temperature. Use yams and potatoes within 24 hours of cutting for optimal taste and texture. Preserving cut potatoes at home is easy with the freezer.
Both potatoes and yams are unique and offer an array of health benefits, making them well worth getting to know. While potatoes are smooth-skinned, often tan in color and sweet, yams are rough-skinned, brown in color, and earthy flavored.
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