Which do you traditionally serve at Thanksgiving dinner, sweet potatoes or yams? Or are you like me and assumed they were the same thing.
According to an online article* from the Library of Congress:
What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?
Although yams and sweet potatoes are both angiosperms (flowering plants), they are not related botanically. Yams are a monocot (a plant having one embryonic seed leaf) and from the Dioscoreaceae or Yam family. Sweet Potatoes, often called ‘yams’, are a dicot (a plant having two embryonic seed leaves) and are from the Convolvulacea or morning glory family.
Therefore, they are indeed different and the article* continues to explain how we Americans started using them interchangeable for one another:
In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties.
Whether this little tidbit of knowledge changes what you serve this Thanksgiving or not; I still plan to serve my Granny’s Candied Yams (which are actually sweet potatoes)! Here is the recipe:
Granny’s Candied Yams
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel and cut up 3 raw sweet potatoes. Then put them in baking dish and barely cover with water. Next, sprinkle 1/2 cup of sugar and dot the top with pads of butter. Bake at 375 degrees until done, stir a little ever so often.