Arts, Dining & Entertainment, Food matters

Use this beloved staple that has a sweet twist

Sweet potatoes are a beloved side dish come the holiday season, as they make for the perfect complement to turkey and roasts.

Despite the popularity of sweet potatoes, some misconceptions about them have prevailed. The terms “sweet potato” and “yam” often are used interchangeably, but they actually are two different plants. Sweet potatoes, according to the cooking resource Epicurious, are in the morning glory family. Yams are related to palms and grasses. Yams are native to Africa, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and Central America. Sweet potatoes are grown primarily in the United States, although they were likely brought from Central or South America. One similarity of sweet potatoes and yams are that they are not potatoes at all.

Sweet potatoes range in color from yellow to dark orange. There also are purple varieties. Yams have brown or black, scaly skin. They can produce off-white, purple or red flesh that is more starchy and dry than sweet potatoes. Most North American stores do not sell genuine yams.

Sweet potatoes can be prepared in both sweet and savory ways, making them equally at home on the dinner table or for dessert.

Sweet potato fries are one of the tastier ways to enjoy sweet potatoes. The baked sweet potato fries recipe, courtesy of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, can make for the perfect side when serving steak or burgers.

The sweet potato chewy bars recipe, courtesy of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council, features vitamin-rich sweet potatoes and pecans, which boast heart-healthy fats. This dessert can fit in with a healthy eating plan. You can experiment with the recipe and reduce the sugar content if you want to make this recipe even healthier.

Baked sweet potato fries
Serves 8


  • 7 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • Preheat oven to 400 °F. Line two baking sheets with foil; spray with nonstick cooking spray. For crispier results, place a metal rack on each baking sheet.
  • Peel the sweet potatoes, if desired, and cut into 1/4-inch strips.
  • In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, oil and salt; with your hands, toss to coat.
  • Spread sweet potatoes in a single layer on racks or foil without crowding; set aside remaining sweet potatoes.
  • Bake until crisp, about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Repeat until all the sweet potatoes are baked.

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