Being the Southern gal I am, I used sweet potatoes, not yams. This, however, raises that age old question, "What's the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?" I know you've ask yourself this a million times, right? No? No matter, you're getting the answer today anyway.
My friend Google and I searched the web high and low to find the definitive answer. The best conclusion came from the Library of Congress of all places. (Who knew they have a section called, Fun Science Facts from the Library of Congress?)
Now honestly, I always assumed the yam and the sweet potato were from the same family. If you thought the same thing, you would be wrong.
Sweet potato or yam with plant growing in the background
Created/Published: [between 1800 and 1860]
From the Japanese prints and drawings collection of the Library of Congress
According to the LOC, "Although yams and sweet potatoes are both angiosperms (flowering plants), they are not related botanically. Yams are a monocot (a plant having one embryonic seed leaf) and are from the Dioscoreaceae or Yam family. Sweet Potatoes, often called ‘yams’, are a dicot (a plant having two embryonic seed leaves) and are from the Convolvulacea or morning glory family."
My goodness, I love morning glories,
no wonder I love sweet potatoes!
"Why the confusion?
In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties."
Sweet potato planting, Hopkinson's Plantation 1862
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
"Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term ‘yam’ to be accompanied by the term ‘sweet potato.’ Unless you specifically search for yams, which are usually found in an international market, you are probably eating sweet potatoes!"
Preparing Sweet Potatoes 1938 — LOC Image
While sweet potatoes are common around our country, I do believe they are most associated with the South. We love our sweet taters in casseroles, simply baked and topped with lots of butter, in tater salad, as spicy fries and most of all — baked into a pie!
Let's get to today's recipe, which is quick, easy and delicious!
- 4 medium sized yams (sweet potatoes); peeled and cubed
- Olive oil
- Herbs, fresh or dried: rosemary, thyme, basil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Put yams in a baggie with olive oil and herbs; shake to make sure that each cube is covered.
- Place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Bake in a 400°F oven for 35-45 minutes or until browned; turning frequently to avoid burning.
Now you can see that I baked mine in a glass dish, so I didn't get that browned, crispy taste you would get from cooking on the foil, but I had sweet potatoes and no foil AND I was hungry, so there you go. Either way, these are so easy and so good, try them for yourself — you won't be disappointed!
I loved them, my daughter loved them and my granddaughter, who doesn't even like to be in the same room with a sweet potato, proclaimed they were "okay" and proceeded to clean her plate.
Now I mentioned above, we love sweet potato pie here in the South…
Image from the Southern Sweet Potato Pie Company in New Orleans
and while I was researching this post, I came across another interesting morsel as I searched the Library of Congress. I found this photo with the following information attached to it:
|Mrs. Davis (left) and Dr. Bethune (right) Library of Congress Images|
"Dr. Bethune and Mrs. Davis, a life-long friend, talking of the times when Dr. Bethune sold sweet potato pies to make a downpayment on the institution known now as Bethune-Cookman College."
I love the determination of this woman. Come on, she sold pies to open a school!
Partial History of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida
In 1904, a very determined young black woman, Mary McLeod Bethune, opened the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls with $1.50, faith in God and five little girls for students. Through Dr. Bethune’s lifetime the school underwent several stages of growth and development. In 1923, it became a co-ed high school as a result of a merger with the Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida. A year later, the school became affiliated with The United Methodist Church; it evolved into a junior college by 1931 and became known as Bethune-Cookman College.
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune - Florida State Archives Photo
Born on a farm near Mayesville, South Carolina in 1875, Mary McLeod Bethune, the 15th child of former slaves, rose from humble beginnings to become a world-renowned educator, civil and human rights leader, champion for women and young people, and an advisor to five U.S. presidents.
Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial in Lincoln Park, Washington, D. C.
by J. J. Prats in 2007 - as part of The Historical Marker Database
To read more about this remarkable woman you can visit the Bethune-Cookman University website or visit countless other web pages from a Google search.
You can read her Last Will & Testament in its entirety here.
A remarkable, insightful document, I leave you today with just a few of her words from her will, written in 1953, two years before her death:
I leave you love
I leave you hope
I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another
I leave you a thirst for education
I leave you respect for the uses of power
I leave you faith
I leave you racial dignity
I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men
I leave you finally a responsibility to our young people
As I face tomorrow,
I am content,
for I think I have spent my life well.
I pray now that my philosophy
may be helpful to
those who share my vision
of a world of
Peace, Progress, Brotherhood, and Love.
—Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955)