Sweet potatoes or yams?

Last week, I gave you a couple of pumpkin recipes to begin thinking about desserts for Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pie was not one of them, as there is a wonderful recipe for that on the can of pumpkin you buy to make your pie. My thought is, “if that recipe has been around for years and been being made, there’s no point in changing it”, so this week, I’ll give you another recipe or two for desserts, including a different pie, as well as a side dish for Thanksgiving, that I’ve used for years.
There have been several different publications that I have seen recently that have recipes for sweet potatoes, and it gave me the idea for this article!
In your area, as well as in mine, we use the terms ‘yam’ and ‘sweet potato’ interchangeably. Did you know that this is incorrect?
After checking out two different encyclopedias, I found that both of them said the same thing. In the United States, certain varieties of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are incorrectly called yams! (A true yam is a starchy root that grows in the Caribbean. It is rough and scaly and not even related to the sweet potato!).
The yam belongs to the genus Dioscorea of the family Dioscoreaceas (called the yam family). There are over 600 known species of true yams. Four of these species are native to the United States.
The sweet potato is among the most important of the tropical root crops. They are baked, boiled, or fried, some are used for soup and some are dried and ground into meal. They are high in Beta-Carotene and vitamins E and C. (Just 2/3 cup of sweet potatoes gives you 100% of the USRDA for Vitamin E). They are also a good source of fiber when eaten with the skin on. They also offer other essential nutrients such as: potassium, iron and Vitamin B6.
The sweet potato is a perennial belonging to the morning-glory family and is chiefly cultivated for its edible roots. The flowers resemble those of the morning-glory and the tuberous roots are usually several inches long. The flesh of the sweet potato may be white, yellow or orange. (I was always told that the darker orange colored potatoes were yams and the lighter ones were sweet potatoes, ho hum, so much for that legend). In the United States, the leading producers of sweet potatoes are Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Years ago, when Sam and I lived in Victoria, there was usually a farmer or two selling fresh sweet potatoes alongside the road between Victoria and Yoakum, yes, we usually stopped and got a few to bring to grandma, as she didn’t always have them.
The sweet potato was introduced into Spain from the West Indies in 1526 and gradually made its way to other parts of Europe. it is generally believed to have first been grown in the United States around 1648. Actually, history tells us that the Native Americans were already growing them when Columbus arrived in 1492. The ship’s log indicated that he took some “Sweet Potatoes” back to Europe with him.
Sweet potatoes require a long, warm growing season. In back issues of our paper, while doing research in old papers, most generally in the 1936-37 era, I have found many references to someone coming by the office and bringing ‘this Editor’ (KK’s grandfather), a sack of locally grown sweet potatoes. Since they grow well in sandy loam, there is really no reason for them not to grow in the Devine area; however, I have not heard of them being raised commercially in recent times.
There are probably as many recipes for cooking sweet potatoes, as there are cooks to cook them. They lend themselves to many recipes. Some folks have never eaten them any way except candied with marshmallows on top at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My very favorite way to eat them is to bake them, split them open, put butter, salt and pepper on them and eat away!
To bake: prick the skin with a fork and bake at 400ºF for 40 to 50 minutes, or until tender. (Be sure to prick thoroughly to keep the potato from exploding while baking, you will have a big mess if you don’t).
A couple of weeks ago, my grandson and his family came for the weekend. My granddaughter-in-law brought me a sweet potato pie. This was a real treat, as even though I had heard of them for years, I had not (to my knowledge) eaten one, nor had I made one. After sharing it with my sister and her husband, she sort of felt that she liked it better than pumpkin pie, so of course, I had to find a recipe and try it. The pie turned out great, and having too much filling for the pie, I just baked that small amount of filling in a pie pan, and it was delicious.
Sweet Potato Pie
1 ¾ cups, baked sweet potato (about 3 medium size), cooled and peeled
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups whole milk
3 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 unbaked 9-inch, deep dish pie crust
Preheat oven to 425ºF. Mash cooled and peeled sweet potatoes (I just used a fork, but you can use your potato masher (bean masher), if you prefer
Mix other ingredients in order listed, add potatoes, stir to blend well, and pour into a 9-inch, deep-dish unbaked pie crust. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, covering with foil if the edges begin to brown too quickly. Watch during the last 10 minutes of baking to check firmness of pie. (I sprayed a 12-inch square of foil with non-stick spray and covered mine the last 20 minutes or so of baking.) I also turned the oven to 400º at the same time. My oven is an old propane stove, and it holds the heat way more than some of the newer stoves do.
Sweet Potatoes with Apples
2 to 3 pounds fresh sweet potatoes
4 or 5 large cooking apples
1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar, or to taste
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
Peel the sweet potatoes and slice into 3/4-inch-thick rounds. Peel the apples and cut into 1/2-inch crosswise slices and remove cores. (If you have an apple corer, the cores can be removed before slicing). Place a layer of sweet potato slices in large pot or baking dish, sprinkle with 1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar and a small amount of the melted butter or margarine, top with a layer of apples. Repeat layers, finishing with a layer of apples. Add 1/4 cup or less water to the pan and place over medium heat. Bring water to a boil, cover and cook without stirring until apples and potatoes are tender. This dish may also be baked in a 350ºF oven until tender. (I have also used canned sweet potatoes, layering them with the apples and cooking until the apples were tender). Serve hot. (This dish is a must at my family’s’ Thanksgiving dinner).
Quick Homemade Apple Crisp
5 cups peeled, sliced baking apples (Granny Smith, Rome Beauty or any tart apple)
3 tablespoons sugar
¾ quick cooking oatmeal (not instant)
½ cup brown sugar (packed)
¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons butter
¼ cup chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Mix apples and sugar and place in a 2-quart baking dish. For topping: in a medium bowl, combine the oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; add pecans if used and mix to combine; sprinkle over apples in baking dish and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden.