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Nov 01 2013

Question For Readers Re: Garnet Yam

I bought this fucken thing labeled “garnet yam”, and now I am getting the sense from the Internet that it is not a yam at all, but a sweet potato. Anybody know the fucken dealio on this motherfucker?

8 comments

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  1. 1
    Vicki

    I am fairly sure they are what I would call sweet potatoes, and they certainly work well treated as such: roast in the oven, cut open, serve with butter, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. I want to try including them the next time I try a tray of mixed roast vegetables (with things like beets and potatoes and cauliflower, cut to about the same size, tossed with olive oil and garlic).

    I suspect you need to be both a botanist and a dialect expert to reliably distinguish yams from sweet potatoes. Root vegetables are like that: back in the 1990s Natural History did a series of articles on the culinary results of the Columbian interchange, things like wheat to the Americas and peppers to Hungary. In the course of that, the writer went exploring some of the Latin American markets in New York City (where the museum is) and found lots of interesting root vegetables. But not only would the same vegetable have different names on different islands, but the same name meant different things from island to island. This may not be a problem if you are living in Trinidad or the Dominican Republic or Jamaica or Puerto Rico or Cuba, but he said it made figuring out what to do with a vegetable difficult if you’re in New York and don’t know where the greengrocer or their parents are from.

  2. 2
    Trebuchet

    As I understand it, all of the things that we Americans call “yams” or “sweet potatoes” are sweet potatoes. Actual yams are an entirely different tuber that is found in Africa. In this country usage of “yam” vs “sweet potato” is dependent on regional traditions and marketing.

    From Wikipedia:

    For the vegetable sometimes called yam in the United States, see sweet potato.

  3. 3
    unbound

    Yeah, Trebuchet has it right. It’s pretty rare to find actual yams for sale in the US. My understanding is that the “garnet yam” is a distinct variety of the sweet potato, so you may like or dislike the taste more than the standard sweet potato.

  4. 4
    Gregory in Seattle

    They are good to eat. What more do you need?

  5. 5
    Ysanne

    Judging from the (admittingly limited) sample of pictures and comparisons I’ve looked at, “garnet yam” seems to be the thing called “kumara” in Brisbane supermarkets, where it’s also known as “golden sweet potato”.
    Very delicious in a variety of ways. It has a nice nutty/pumpkiny/carroty taste, cooks soft way faster than normal potatoes and has a less starchy and more pumpkiny texture.
    It’s fantastic as fries (coating them in a bit in crumbs is a good idea), roasted (takes well to oil/spice coats), mash optionally mixed with ordinary potatoes, combines perfectly with sweet chili sauce, works as a potato-like vegetable component in curries, and I really liked it as a substitute for the pastry base in yesterday’s zucchini tomato ricotta quiche.
    So, yeah, can’t really go wrong with it. :-)

  6. 6
    Dr Becca

    If you want an actual yam, I’d try the Chinatown groceries or maybe Queens.

  7. 7
    blindrobin

    It’s a root so you cook it and it. If you are lucky it has a pleasing flavour you will enjoy it.

  8. 8
    psanity

    A few years back, when I did most of my shopping at that oasis of kindness and beauty, the San Francisco Farmers’ Market, denizens were extremely clear about labeling produce by its proper name and variety. So, I know this one. What is called a “garnet yam” in most USian supermarkets is an orange-fleshed sweet potato, variety “garnet”. Another popular variety is “jewel”. There are also white-fleshed (well, not really, sort of beige) sweet potatoes.

    Where I live now, and in most of the US, the notion seems to be that orange-fleshed tubers are “yams” (thus, the ubiquitous “candied yams” of Thanksgiving Dinner fame), and white-fleshed tubers (sometimes with reddish skin) are “sweet potatoes”. Very confusing, since real yams are usually light-fleshed, light-skinned, starchy, not sweet at all, and very available at grocery stores and farmers’ markets in areas with diverse ethnicity.

    So, occasionally in Supermarket X, across our great land, a produce department will receive actual yams, and automatically label them “sweet potatoes”, much to the dismay of the unsuspecting people who buy them. I have pointed this out to grocers, who, if they even know what I’m talking about, say they have to label them incorrectly or “no one will know what they are”. Sigh.

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