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Yams/Sweet Potato name confusion

 
Jason Mendes
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I was at the farmers market today, and had a conversation with a woman who was working the cash box for a farm. I was buying some yams and asked if they also grew/sold sweet potatoes.

I sure hope she wasn't the farmer..

Lady: "Those are sweet potatoes"
Me: "Uh no, these are yams"
Lady: "Well, yams and sweet potatoes are the same thing"
Me: "No they're not. They are from different plant families and clearly a different eating experience. Yams are stringy inside"
Lady: "Have you ever looked at a can of yams? It says sweet potatoes"
Me: "Uh ok, whatever."
 
              
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are you sure you bought a yam? can you post a photo?

cause she might be right, those might be sweet potatoes.

toan
 
                                      
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yams is yams, sweet potatoes are sweet potatoes, though some yams are not long but roundish, still stringy ans less sweet than sweet potatoes. Totally different families and genus.

From wiki:
The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the family Convolvulaceae.


Yam is the common name for some species in the genus Dioscorea (family Dioscoreaceae).



[...]
Ah but wait, also from wiki, apperently in north america you guys start mixing stuff up:
Although the softer, orange variety is often called a yam in parts of North America, the sweet potato is botanically very distinct from the other vegetable called a yam, which is native to Africa and Asia and belongs to the monocot family Dioscoreaceae. To prevent confusion, the United States Department of Agriculture requires sweet potatoes labeled as "yams" to be labeled also as "sweet potatoes".[3]
 
Dale Hodgins
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Amedean Messan
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Sounds like the beginnings of a new book about the mystery of the sister tubers.
 
Terri Matthews
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I am 56 years old, and I have lived in 3 different states. I have never seen a yam sold in this country!

We often CALL them yams, but they are botanically a sweet potato! Some are yellow and some are orange, but they are not yams!

I have heard that you can get a true yam in Hawaii.
 
Denise Lehtinen
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Location: Tampa, Florida zone 9A
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Yams... the real ones that climb trees and reproduce via air pods are one of the many invasive species in Florida.

That is to say...not only do they grow here, they grow too well here.

 
Matthew Nistico
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Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
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I would be very interested to know if indeed anyone in the United States is actually selling a yam. I have never seen one and would be very curious to taste. From what I understand, regardless of the long-standing tradition of using the term "yam," especially in the South, there are no yams consumed in this country. Since yams are grown in Africa, among other continents, I have always assumed that the word arrived here with the slave trade, but that is just speculation on my part. Any history buffs out there can confirm or deny?

Unless you are paying top dollar at some specialty ethnic grocer, they are all sweet potatoes, regardless of what people call them. Yes, even the ones that say "yam" on the can's label. This has of course led to the common belief that the two terms are interchangeable, since we use them interchangeably. But as some here have already pointed out, we use the term yam incorrectly to refer to sweet potatoes.
 
              
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Howdy,

i've seen yams listed as yucca and as name' (nam-me).

you can find them in asian and mexican shops. they are pretty good, though not sweet. has a dry, dense, and flaky taste when baked.

 
Fred Morgan
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Yuca here is Cassava, nothing to do with yams. We have papa chinas, they are yams. Not stringy at all, taste a lot like potatoes and very good. Incredibly prolific if you give them enough feeding. I harvested 50 lbs from a single vine this year...

 
lil hodgins
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Location: s w france
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i love sweet potatoes, but I have never grown them.....would love some tips on how to do it and what they like growing with? also can i just buy them from the shop and plant them ? I have no idea where else i could buy them here in south west france......yams i have never tasted !
 
Denise Lehtinen
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lil hodgins wrote:i love sweet potatoes, but I have never grown them.....would love some tips on how to do it and what they like growing with? also can i just buy them from the shop and plant them ? I have no idea where else i could buy them here in south west france......yams i have never tasted !


Yams and sweet potatoes have a similar taste, but are completely different species.

My guess is that they would like your summers in southern France very well. Here in the USA they are summer crops in places like Georgia and Florida.

The one issue you MIGHT encounter with the sweet potatoes from your market is that they MIGHT have been treated with a chemical to keep them from sprouting. But otherwise your plan of planting them is quite workable. Sweet potatoes grow from their roots and can also be spread via vine cuttings. (I put the cuttings in a vase of water for a couple days and I always start to see little roots by that time.) I have also gotten the tubers themselves to sprout by forgetting about them on a shelf in a dark corner for a week or more -- if the air is warm enough and humid enough, there is enough there to get them started.

I am somewhat new to permaculture and don't yet have a guild for my sweet potatoes, but I have seen Asian farmers around here plant them beneath trees (for their fertilizing effect, I presume.)

I hope this helps.
 
Matthew Nistico
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Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
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@Lil & Denise - I think Denise is correct: sweet potatoes would probably make a very successful crop in southern France. Possibly even better than here in the American South, actually, since your Mediterranean climate winters are milder than ours. The lower half of Florida is semi-tropical, but throughout the rest of the South we get very cold winters, despite the intensity of our summer heat. The limiting factor on sweet potatoes is frost. Once the first hints of frost appear in the autumn, you must immediately dig all of your sweet potato spuds. If not, and the vines get killed back significantly by a heavy frost, the sweet potatoes you dig will look and taste fine, but their keeping qualities will be seriously compromised. You might be able to grow them longer before harvest time arrives. I imagine yams would do well for you there, too, but I can't really speak about them from any experience.

Denise was also correct in that supermarket sweet potatoes, just like supermarket Irish potatoes, may have been treated to prevent from sprouting. But here is the thing: that really shouldn't stop you from trying them if you can find no other source. It is best not to plant your sweets directly in the ground. I always lay them out on top of the ground in early summer, cover with a good 6" or more of straw or old hay in a pile, and wait for the sprouts to poke up before planting. I would also recommend sprouting whole potatoes, rather than cutting them into chunks as many have traditionally done. Cutting them stretches your seed potatoes farther, but could also introduce diseases. Anyway, get a start on this process early in the summer with supermarket sweet potatoes. Even if treated, you will still get SOME sprouts out of them; it just might take a little longer and you might get a lower success rate. But your seed potatoes are cheap! Even if only a few sprout for you, transplant them and once they get established you can snip a few vines in order to propagate them as Denise described. With an early enough start, there should be plenty of time to transplant the cuttings back to the garden. With one decent crop you will be able to save your own seed potatoes for next year, and again and again, so you will never need worry about finding a source in the future. Saving seed is difficult, what with concerns over cross-pollination and unstable hybrids and such. Saving potatoes to replant is easy! : )
 
tel jetson
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Denise Lehtinen wrote:Yams... the real ones that climb trees and reproduce via air pods are one of the many invasive species in Florida.

That is to say...not only do they grow here, they grow too well here.


sounds like air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera). been trying to get my hands on some more of that, since I killed my three plants a few years back. I had a nice edible variety from a nursery in Florida, but they quit selling it. so feel free to send me some aerial tubers if you need to get rid of them. they aren't a problem at all here in the wet temperate north, but do have the potential to make a lot of food.

oletko suomalainen?
 
Denise Lehtinen
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Yes, air potatoes are a species of yam. My most reliable source tells me that they are edible but not palatable. Probably you can no longer purchase yams because they are listed in some areas as an invasive species.

(BTW, I do not speak Suomi. My grandmother was suomalainen. Lehtinen was her mother's maiden name.)
 
tel jetson
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Denise Lehtinen wrote:(BTW, I do not speak Suomi. My grandmother was suomalainen. Lehtinen was her mother's maiden name.)


(my grandma used to be a Turpin, which I guess was the closest the Ellis Island staff could get to Turpeinen.)

and yeah, they're illegal to ship now. didn't want to scare any potential donors off, though. the bad taste and toxicity shouldn't be anything many long years of breeding work couldn't take care of.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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