What’s the Difference Between a Sweet Potato and a Yam?

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Tony Maples Photography


It depends on what recipe you’re looking at and what grocery store you go to, but often, it seems like the words “yam” and “sweet potato” are used interchangeably. Curiously, yams are actually a completely different root vegetable, yet Americans don’t normally eat them and could only find them in a specialty store. So why is “yam” another name for a sweet potato here in the United States?

Vox, a company that aims to “cut through the noise and understand what’s driving events in the headlines and in our lives, on everything from Taxes to Terrorism to Taylor Swift” decided to investigate, and their fascinating findings are logged in the video below.

The way they get to the bottom of this matter is by calling up the President of the Sweet Potato Council, Mac Rogers from Tennessee. Interestingly, the United States Sweet Potato Council is a real volunteer organization that strives to “advocate for the economic well-being of U.S. sweet potato growers.” They even have their own convention once a year! Of course, Rogers is able to clue Vox in on the yam/sweet potato confusion.