Dear Ann [Bartlett] (MASTER! GARDENER!)

November 26, 2016

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Dear Miss Ann,


I do not want to play family feud over the holiday, but what is a yam?  My know-it-all


brother, Bubba, says yams are the same as sweet potatoes.  His source of information is the yam can.


Now a missionary lady visiting our women's institute whilst taking a break from her work amongst the heathens says that ain't so. Among the many interesting things she told us is that the heathens roast humongous roots for village feasts.  Anybody who doesn't want to end up as a shrunken head has to eat some. She tries to choke down the least amount possible as it tastes disgusting. She said that these are true yams.


I say a missionary has a sight more worldly knowledge than Bubba. He could learn a thing or two by opening his mind to one whose been around a lot more than he ever has!


--Self-righteous Sue



Dear Sue,


No need for a food feud.  You are both right!


I doubt many of us have eaten real yams, Dioscorea. They are a food staple throughout

 the islands of the South Pacific, southeast Asia and tropical Africa. Many  are similar in size to potatoes; however, some require teams of able-bodied men to harvest each one!


These huge ones are generally roasted over an open fire for community feasts. Yams are very bland and so are frequently served with spicy sauces.


The sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, is a New World member of the morning glory family. It was such a hit with the Spanish conquistadors that they introduced it into the Philippines. From there it quickly became popular in China and throughout southeast Asia.​


Grocers use both terms.  Tubers with darker flesh are moister and sweeter than lighter- colored varieties. These command a higher price and are often labeled "yams," Yet these yams are still sweet potatoes. Just check the label on the yam can.   


Enjoy your family feast!


Native Californian Ann Bartlett never lets a lack of experience with a plant stop her from trying it in the ornamental beds around her home.








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