Sweet Potato Awareness Month
November is Sweet Potato Awareness Month (SPAM), and I do my part by reminding people that yams are something else entirely. As a foodie and an evolutionary biologist, I feel obliged to be a nudge about this. So here are three images to help.
First, a photograph of a white yam (Ipomoea rotunda) in a bin of sweet potatoes.
Second, a photograph of three cultivars of sweet potato (all Ipomoea batatas) next to a yellow yam (Dioscorea cayennensis).
Third, an illustration of how yams and sweet potato are related (they aren’t). As a bonus, I’ve also indicated the position of potato.
Please share this page with your family prior to Thanksgiving dinner. It will be one less thing to bicker about. If you need more details, here’s my “Yams versus sweet potatoes” page. Read it if you want to know why the slave trade caused the whole “yam” confusion problem.
Posted in Biology, Education, Food, Gardening, Photography, Science Tagged Dioscorea, Ipomoea, sweet potato, sweet potato awareness month, yam Leave a comment
Minor victory in my war against yam labeling fraud
In my futile quest to convince people that sweet potatoes shouldn’t be called yams (which are unrelated plants), I discovered that one can actually report vendors who label sweet potatoes as yams. So, for giggles, I reported Giant Foods to the USDA’s Misbranding and Misrepresentation Office. Below is a photograph I took in November of their organic sweet potatoes:
And now in all of their stores (that I’ve checked), they sell sweet potatoes labeled as sweet potatoes:
It might be a small victory, but Giant Foods is giant, so I’m pleased. If you want to know more about my futile war, please see my page on Yams versus Sweet Potatoes. If you want to make your own report, just visit the above USDA site and send the contact person a photograph of the label along with store contact information. They’ll do the rest, and apparently in a persuasive way.
Posted in Biology, Education, Food, Gardening, Graphic design, Health, Photography, Science Tagged fraud, grocery, Ipomoea, label, organic, store, sweet potatoes, USDA, vegetable, yam 5 Comments
Open letter to produce managers re: yams
Dear Produce Manager,
If you want to sell more orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, craft your labels with “yams” in parentheses, like this:
Sweet potatoes (“yams”)
Because you are a produce manager, you undoubtedly know that a yam is a completely unrelated thing, so using quotation marks will indicate to ignorant shoppers that you are not actually selling yams. As you also surely know, “yam” is regional slang used by some (generally older folks) to refer to a sweet potato that has orange flesh. But if you only have “yams” on label, some shoppers might get flustered and leave for another store that labels sweet potatoes as “sweet potatoes.” Still others are looking for a specific variety of orange-fleshed sweet potato (Beauregard, Jewel, etc.), so list that, too. E.g.,
‘Beauregard’ sweet potatoes (“yams”)
That’s a lot of text, but different varieties are good for different recipes, and some of your customers are over-educated foodies who care deeply about such details. Ideally, cut one in half and cover in plastic wrap to convince skeptical shoppers that it does, indeed, have orange flesh.
Posted in Biology, Education, Food, Gardening, Graphic design, Health, Photography, Science Tagged color, difference, distinguishing, flesh, label, orange, orange-fleshed, slang, sweet potato, sweet potatoes, vernacular, yam, yams Leave a comment
This is not a photograph of a yam
Posted in Biology, Education, Food, Gardening, Graphic design, Health, Photography, Science Tagged magritte, photograph, sweet potato, this is not a pipe, this is not a yam, yam Leave a comment
Yam or sweet potato?
I revised the reference card a tad, so here it is again. Please share. If you want to print out a bunch to laminate into wallet-sized favors for your Thanksgiving guests, here’s the PDF. And here are the gruesome details behind this card, if you really want to know.