I often hear the same old question from a dazed shoppers looking at the tubers on display, “Is this a sweet potato or a yam?” There are two reasons why consumers are stumped when buying sweet potatoes. Years ago, African slaves saw the sweet potatoes here and they called them yams because they resembled the hard tubers in Africa, so eventually the sweet potato became know as the yam. To buy an African yam, a real yam, which is not even related to a sweet potato, you would have to go a specialty shop.
The second reason for the confusion, sweet potato or yam, relates to the different varieties of sweet potatoes in most grocery stores. The most common are the O’Henry, which has pale copper skin and light colored flesh; the Japanese, which has dark red skin and white flesh; and the Covington, which has dark rose skin and orange flesh. The Covington is the variety most people believe is a yam, or refer to as a yam, even though it is a sweet potato. So in answer to the question, “Is it a sweet potato or a yam?” It’s both. It’s a sweet potato but it’s called a yam. In fact, the USDA now requires supermarkets to use both labels together.
A medium-sized sweet potato has four times the recommended daily requirement for the antioxidant beta-carotene, it’s healthy and really tasty. And this tuber is a great source of fiber, vitamin C, manganese, and antioxidants to reduce your risk of chronic diseases. It is also made up of complex carbohydrates, which means that it will keep you feeling full, longer.
About the recipe: I found the basic recipe for curried dal by Shelly Young in PH Miracle. I’ve modified it somewhat to make it spicier, and I think of it more as sweet potato curry than dal.
Servings: 5 to 6 Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 35 minutes
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup coconut, almond, or soymilk
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 serrano chilies, minced
2 teaspoons garam masala
½ teaspoon cumin
1-½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups vegetable stock
1-½ tablespoons olive oil
1-½ cups tomato, diced
4 cups sweet potato, chopped into ¾-inch cubes
2 cups greens (spinach, turnip greens, or Kale), roughly chopped
1 cup green peas, thawed
3 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
1. Pour the olive oil in a 10-inch pan and sauté the onion and garlic over low heat.
2. While the onions are gently sautéing, measure out the spices into a small bowl. While you are placing all the spices into the bowl, remember to check the onions from time to time. If they are translucent, add the spices to the pan with the Serrano chilies and cook 30 seconds. Add ½ cup of stock, swirl it around, and then transfer the mixture to a blender and process until smooth.
3. Add the spice mixture back to the pan along with the sweet potatoes, the diced tomatoes, and the remaining stock. Cook 5 minutes stirring, and then cover and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Add the greens and peas and cook about another 7-10 minutes.
5. Stir in the mint and serve.
Serve with brown rice pilaf. You may even want to add a touch of cinnamon to the rice along with a few raisins.
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