Have a Holiday Helping of Sacramento Sweet Potatoes

Suzanne Ashworth, owner of Del Rio Botanical farm in West Sacramento, shows off a freshly sliced sweet potato

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Sweet potato or yam? That is the question — especially during the fall and winter months. From sweet potato casseroles gooey with marshmallows to sliced yams on hearty winter salads, it can be tough to discern the differences between these two root vegetables.

Sweet potato season is in full swing here in Greater Sacramento. California’s sweet potato production is the second-highest in the U.S. (just behind North Carolina), so we are spoiled by choice. And when you find the right sweet potato recipe for your seasonal table, you’ll fill your home with the delicious scent of roasting, caramelized goodness that truly epitomizes the holidays.


So what’s the difference between a sweet potato and a yam? Are they interchangeable? Though sweet potatoes have a complex identity, in the U.S., yams and sweet potatoes are almost interchangeable, since when you see canned yams those are most likely just sweet potatoes.

A true yam is a rare find in most grocery stores, and it doesn’t have the sweet orange flesh of a true sweet potato. True yams have dark, rough skin and white flesh. They are starchier than the classic sweet potato and not as sweet. But the plot thickens when you introduce Korean sweet potatoes. These purple potatoes have starchy white flesh as well, but they’re more common. Korean sweet potatoes are a slightly more savory substitute for the classic orange potato.

Suzanne Ashworth, owner of Del Rio Botanical farm in West Sacramento, has been farming for 20 years and growing sweet potatoes for seven years. She maintains that sweet potatoes and yams are close enough to being the same that any grocer would know what you meant if you said one or the other. Generally, both names refer to the classic orange sweet potato we all know and love. But when it comes to buying them, she has some advice. “Good sweet potatoes don’t have bruises or spots and are firm to touch,” Ashworth says.

Dru Rivers, co-owner of Full Belly Farm in Guinda, can attest to the labor of love it takes to grow a delicious and good-looking sweet potato.

“They require very sandy, loose soil to grow straight and plump,” Rivers says. “We have grown them, and they tasted delicious but were pretty ugly due to our soil structure.”

So why add sweet potatoes to your table this year? Other than their vibrant color and rich texture that begs to be paired with other winter veggies, sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, vitamins B5 and B6, thiamin, and niacin — the last two of which are great for kicking the winter blues.

Winter is prime time for sweet potatoes, so take advantage of the colder months and craft a hearty fry-up with pork belly from these orange beauties.


Sweet Potato Fries

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato and Pork Belly Fry-Up

Del Rio Botanical’s produce is available through Produce Express. For details, visit Delriobotanical.com. Full Belly Farm’s produce can be purchased through its CSA box program. For details, visit Fullbellyfarm.com.

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