Robin's Fresh Take: All About Yams
First up, what's a yam? Lots of folks use yams while calling them "sweet potatoes." Grocery stores only add to the confusion -- the USDA requires the labels on yams to also say sweet potatoes. Here's how to tell the difference: Yams have copper skin and a deliciously sweet orange flesh, while sweet potatoes have yellow-gray skin and white to yellowish flesh. If you can't tell from the skin, poke your fingernail into the skin to see the flesh underneath (but don't tell the produce people I said so).
So, the difference between sweet potatoes and yams is simply variety. Not to confuse you (but in an effort to leave no stone unturned) true “yams” aren’t related to either one – they’re tropical root vegetables with a crisp, bland, white/yellow flesh (and they’re sold mostly in Latin grocery stores so you don’t see them as often).
Nutritionally, yams rule. Thanks to the orange flesh, yams are brimming with vitamin C and beta carotene, both powerful antioxidants. They also boast potassium and fiber and clock in at about 150 calories per cup.
I love to substitute yams wherever you'd use regular potatoes. They work in all types of dishes, from baked to roasted to mashed with butter and sour cream. My favorite recipe is one I make year-round and it’s super-simple: yams with maple and mandarin oranges.
First, peel and cube about 2 pounds of yams and toss them with a little olive oil. Spread them out on a large baking sheet and sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning. Bake the yams for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. Then, drizzle the yams with maple syrup and arrange mandarin oranges (from a can or jar) all around the baking sheet. Bake for another 15 minutes, until yams are golden brown and fork-tender.
Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.