Thursday, January 8, 2015

Sweet Potato or Yam

Four varieties of Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes and yams are both tuberous roots, but are constantly confused for one another. The truth is, what you are calling a yam is most likely a sweet potato.... and even more possible that you have never tasted a yam! 
Depending on the variety, sweet potato flesh can vary from white to orange and even purple. The paler skinned sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin with pale yellow flesh. It is not as sweet and has a dry, crumbly texture similar to a white baking potato. The darker skinned variety (which is most often called a ‘yam’ in error) has a thicker, dark orange to reddish skin with a vivid orange, sweet flesh and a moist texture. 
A true yam is the starchy, edible root of a tropical vine (Dioscorea batatas) grown primarily in South America, Africa and the Caribbean. The skin is rough, scaly and difficult to peel, not even distantly related to the sweet potato! Yams have a higher sugar content and can grow enormous... sometimes over 7 feet in length! Yams are toxic if eaten raw, but perfectly safe when cooked. 
Both sweet potato and yam have a very low glycemic index and both are loaded with potassium, magnesium and phosphorous. Most people still think of sweet potatoes as yams regardless of their true identity. 
In the fall and early winter, the orange flesh sweet potatoes are available at reasonable prices and are JUMBO in size. Only two of these monsters are required for a big batch of soup! I developed this recipe a few years ago but this year, I had leftovers from Christmas Dinner... cooked meat, 'Apricot Pecan Wild Rice Stuffing' (pg. 279-'For the Love of Food'), roasted diced sweet potato and some frozen peas. I improvised the recipe below, making use of my leftovers and the result will fill the freezer with this nutritious, delicious soup. 
Till next week... Bon Appetit!

Curried Sweet Potato with Wild Rice and Chicken Soup   
            Yield: 8-10 servings              
Christmas Dinner leftovers become delicious soup!
½ c. wild rice 
3 cups water 
1 Tbsp. chicken soup base mix
3 Tbsp. butter
2 red onions, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. Madras curry powder
1½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. sea salt (divided)
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼-½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 large, orange flesh, sweet potatoes; peeled and cut ½-inch dice (8-10 cups)
6-8 cups flavorful chicken stock
*3-4 Tbsp. brown rice flour (for thickening), optional

2 cups cooked chicken or turkey meat, dice into bite-sized pieces  
1 c. frozen peas
2 green onions, thinly sliced

In a medium saucepan, simmer wild rice in 3 cups water with chicken soup base mix and ½ tsp. salt, stir occasionally until cooked.
Meanwhile, heat butter in large saucepan over medium-low, add onion and garlic, stir occasionally until soft about 3 minutes. Add curry powder, cumin, chili, remaining ½ tsp. salt, pepper and Worcestershire; cook stirring for 2 minutes. Add diced sweet potato and chicken stock, stir well; cover and bring to boil. While at a boil, whisk in brown rice flour, if using. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sweet potato is cooked.
NOTE:*(If you want an even thicker soup, lightly mash some of the diced sweet potato with a potato masher or use an immersion blender before adding remaining ingredients.) 
Add cooked, diced meat, cooked wild rice with any remaining liquid and frozen peas. Simmer until heated through, taste and adjust seasoning.
Add green onions just prior to serving. 


Photos and Recipe by Sally Rae


  1. Nice...yams, but I guess in fact they're sweet potatoes. I too have always referred to the orange ones as yams. Soup looks yummy.

    1. True JP, and not our fault for the confusion.
      A little history lesson... several decades ago when orange-fleshed sweet potatoes were introduced in the southern US, producers and shippers called them 'yams' to distinguish them from the traditional white-fleshed type. This was the English version of the African word 'nyami', referring to the starchy, edible root of the Dioscorea genus of plants. Which is why most people still think of sweet potatoes as yams regardless of their true identity!!