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You Didn't Really Eat Yams Today

Ashley Narvaiz - Thursday, November 23, 2017

Families will gather around the table today, ready to create memories and enjoy delicious food. One Thanksgiving classic you're bound to see is a dish of Candied Yams, topped with brown sugar and golden marshmallows! 


We're going to let you in on a secret... 

If you took a big scoop of those candied yams, they weren't actually yams!


                                   


Capital Public Radio shared an article on the myth behind the American Yam - and that myth is that what we enjoy as our candied yams, are actually sweet potatoes! Most Americans have never tasted a real yam - typically grown in Africa and far more starchy and watery. You've likely never seen a real yam in your life!


  

           Sweet Potato        Yam              Potato


So why do all of the shippers and grocery stores label sweet potatoes as yams - when they really aren't yams?


JJ Harbster explained when the sweet potatoes were first brought over to America, "They recognized that root, or the tuber, that looked very much like the yams they knew in Africa and they called them yams, and so the marketers, they just ran with it."


....It's really just from marketing!


This video we found explains the phenomenon too: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCDeMbgX7vk


In recent years, many sweet potato growers and shippers are trying to squash this mis-marketing and have started labeling sweet potatoes as sweet potatoes. The shift in grocery stores for consumers likely isn't coming soon. Kathy Means with the Produce Marketing Association based in Delaware says it may be a tough sell, especially this time of year, when family traditions come into play, regardless of how botanically incorrect the term yam may be.


“I think when you pull great-grandma’s recipe out of the recipe box for her candied yams or her marshmallow sweet potatoes, folks have a sense of what it is that they’re eating, in terms of family traditions and holidays and things like that,” says Means.


We're thinking it will take some time for Americans to stop asking for the candied yams to be passed along the table each Thanksgiving - but the shift is starting with growers and shippers. The future might look different for grandma's Candied Yams.


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