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What is Yam (a healthy tropical root vegetable)

white yam

Yams are starchy tubers that are native to Africa and Asia. They are a staple food in many tropical and subtropical countries and are also becoming increasingly popular in Western cuisines. Yams are often confused with sweet potatoes, but they are actually two different plants.

True yams are members of the Dioscoreaceae family, while sweet potatoes are members of the Convolvulaceae family. Yams have a dry, starchy flesh that can be white, yellow, or purple. They can also be quite large, with some varieties weighing up to 7 feet long and weighing over 100 pounds.

Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, have a moist, sweet flesh that is typically orange or white. They are also smaller than yams, with most varieties weighing less than 2 pounds.

Varieties of Yam

There are over 600 species of yams, but only a few are commonly cultivated. Some of the most popular varieties of yams include:

  • Guinea yam: This is the most common type of yam grown in Africa. It has a rough, brown skin and white flesh.
  • Water yam: This type of yam is grown in both Africa and Asia. It has a smooth, brown skin and white or yellow flesh.
  • Chinese yam: This type of yam is native to China and Japan. It has a smooth, white skin and white flesh.
  • Ube: This type of yam is native to Southeast Asia. It has a purple skin and flesh, and is known for its sweet, earthy flavor.

A few points about this easy-to-cook staple vegetable

Yam is a root vegetable that grows primarily in warm countries/islands native to Africa and Asia. It is similar to potato because of its starchy texture.

There are about 600 species of yams found around the world. The species depends on location and cultivation. This ingredient is not to be confused with sweet potatoes because they are also referred to as yams.

Actual or real yams have rough, dark skin. This type of yam is either white or pale yellow on the inside, and the texture is very different. It can also have a reddish color on the inside but not always. The reddish yam is not found everywhere.

Because the inside is a bit slimy, wearing gloves when removing the skin is recommended. This way, you protect your hands from the flesh as it may irritate your skin. Once the skin is removed, cut into pieces, rinse, and use in your recipe.

White Yam - caribbeangreenliving.com
White Yam

Nutritional Benefits of Yam

Yams have many health benefits. Yams are a good source of vitamins A, C, and B6, as well as minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and copper. They are also a good source of dietary fiber.

One cup of cooked yam contains approximately:

  • 160 calories
  • 36 grams of carbohydrates
  • 4 grams of protein
  • 1 gram of fat
  • 6 grams of fiber

Some of the benefits are:

  • A good source of energy
  • It helps reduce constipation
  • A good source of complex carbohydrates
  • It contains good amounts of antioxidant vitamin
  • It contains vitamin A, B, and C
  • A good source of minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus

How to Cook Yam

Yams can be cooked in a variety of ways, including boiling, baking, roasting, and frying. They can also be mashed, sliced, or diced.

To boil yams, peel them and cut them into pieces. Place the yam pieces in a pot of boiling water and cook for 15-20 minutes or until they are tender.

To bake yams, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the yams and cut them into wedges. Place the yam wedges on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake the yams for 20-25 minutes, or until they are golden brown and tender.

To roast yams, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the yams and cut them into cubes. Place the yam cubes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the yams for 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown and tender.

To fry yams, heat a few inches of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Peel the yams and cut them into matchsticks. Fry the yam sticks until they are golden brown and crispy.

How to store white yam or yellow yam

Whether you buy white yam or yellow yam, storage is the same. Similar to plantains and potatoes, yams can be stored the same way in your vegetable basket or the pantry.

White Yam - caribbeangreenliving.com
White Yam

Where to buy and how to enjoy this incredible vegetable

Tropical white or yellow yams are primarily found in West-Indian or Spanish markets. These days, you can find it in your local supermarket near potatoes, yucca, and plantains.

This vegetable can be enjoyed in many ways.

Depending on the recipes, Yam can be boiled, fried, pureed, and baked. Many people prefer to boil it because it is easier to cook and serve with a meat, poultry, or seafood dish.

Here are a few dishes you can enjoy with boiled or fried yam.

Yams are a delicious and nutritious vegetable that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Whether you like them mashed, roasted, or fried, yams are sure to be a hit with your family and friends.


Originally published in March 2016. Updated to include more information.

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