Roasted Sweet Potatoes; a sweet rant

I asked my mother once, when I was a child, the difference between a sweet potato and a yam.

She told me, with great authority (typical of mothers), that yams were orange and sweet potatoes were yellow.

I believed that for many years. Then I started cooking and inadvertently bought a white sweet potato.

I did a tiny bit of research…. What I learned is detailed after the recipe, which is made with white sweet potatoes.

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I had white sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes can be white, yellow or shades of orange.

  • Author: Kate
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x
  • Category: Potatoes
  • Method: Roasting


  • 2 sweet potatoes (12oz, 360gr) total, cut into large chunks
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp course black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • red pepper flakes, optional


  • Put all ingredients except potatoes, into large bowl and mix well.
  • Add potatoes and stir, coating thoroughly.
  • Arrange potatoes on baking sheet with rim and bake at 400F for 30 minutes.
  • You can turn once if you like to fuss but I usually don’t bother.
  • Remove from oven and serve.


You can make these as hot as you like….


  • Serving Size: 1/2 recipe
  • Calories: 220
  • Sugar: 7.6 g
  • Sodium: 100.2 mg
  • Fat: 7.3 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.1 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 37.3 g
  • Fiber: 5.8 g
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

Keywords: sweet potatoes, roast sweet potatoes

For the holidays try Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes (skip the marshmallow stuff).

Roasted Sweet Potatoes


Potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.

All three are consumed by humans and other animals; all three have significant health benefits (even when doused in butter); all three have a vague resemblance to each other.

But that’s all, folks.

Potatoes are related to tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and tomatillos.

Sweet potatoes are related to Morning Glories (the flower).

Yams are related to… yams.

All three are gnarly, root-tuber looking vegetables, but a yam is a tuber, a sweet potato is a storage root and a potato is a stem tuber…. and all three from different botanical families.

The confusion of the ‘sweet potato’ and ‘potato’ names we can put squarely on the shoulders of old Chris Columbus and other early explorers who forgot their Berlitz Travel Dictionaries and confused the early translations. Earliest reference to the sweet potato is in the 1775 version of the Oxford English dictionary.

The confusion of the ‘sweet potato’ and ‘yam’ names we can put squarely on the shoulders of the production / marketing types in the middle of the 1900’s. Up until then sweet potatoes had been of the dry, light-fleshed variety. When the moist, orange-fleshed variety was introduced, some bright spark decided the American consumer wasn’t capable of grasping that a vegetable could come in two colors and decided to label the orange one ‘yam’.

My grandmother successfully navigated a garden filled with green and yellow string beans, red and white radishes, purple and green cabbages….

But she couldn’t be trusted to handle both white and orange sweet potatoes. I have no idea how the yellow ones came into the picture but I remember eating them as a child. I haven’t seen one in years.

Yams are a staple in Latin America, Asia and Africa. They are difficult to peel, can get very large, must be cooked before eating and take twice as long to grow as sweet potatoes (180 – 360 days for yams, 90 – 150 days for sweet potatoes).

Sweet potatoes most often are the size of a large potato.

Now you know…..

Apparently no one cares because the orange sweet potato is still called a yam by most people in the U.S., including chefs and foodie types who should know better.

4 thoughts on “Roasted Sweet Potatoes; a sweet rant”

  1. And I’m not a fan of either. Go figure. I’ll eat neeps (Scots mother) which is a swede in Great Britain (dad’s mother) which is a rutabaga in America, all day long. The only real difference between the three is the neep is small, the swede is larger and the rutabaga is easily found in America which the neep is not (quite white inside.) The rutabaga is also a little more yellow inside. I’ll also eat parsnips all day long. In Scotland, they’re also known as white carrots. In Great Britain, just parsnips. I’m not a fan of carrots but there’s a distinct difference in the flavors. When it comes to potatoes however, I’ll eat red, yukon gold, russets, new, blue, fingerling, almost any, but sweet. And there you have it! 😉

    • The swedes we had in Ireland were big and kind of soft – I love rutabagas, but passed on the swedes. We can and do get turnips (white) and rutabagas (yellow) here, both small and firm. I just saw them last week so they’ll be available now until late winter. Rutabagas were a treat – holiday food when I was a kid lol. The only sweet potato I refuse to eat are the horrid ones with marshmallow stuff.

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