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Yam Safety Question

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

During a trip to a Caribbean grocery near my home to find some new foods to experiment with, I found a wide selection of yams.  Jamaica, Dominican, Ghana, etc.

 

I chose a Ghana yam to take home and try to cook by itself to see how it tasted on its own.  I did my research and found that yam skin is not edible, nor is its raw flesh.  So I peeled the yam, cut it into pieces, and boiled it for quite a long time, about 45 minutes to be extra sure, and they were nice and soft.

 

I took a small bite and found the texture and flavor to be much like white potato.  So I then ate a larger piece.  After I had swallowed, I realized I had a slight, but noticeable, lingering bitter taste in my mouth.  I panicked and did some more Googling and found that the wild variety in Africa contains high concentrations of alkaloids and are traditionally soaked and fermented for several days and/or boiled in several changes of water.  I immediately discarded all the remaining cooked yam.

 

I would assume what is sold in the grocery store would be cultivated rather than foraged, but is it possible they were actually wild?  Or was I just being paranoid and it is normal for yams to have a slightly bitter taste?

 

Any insight is appreciated, thanks!

post #2 of 4

What we call "yams" here in America are, in fact, sweet potatoes.

Yams are not sweet potatoes. Similar but still 2 different things.

Yams are indigenous to the Carribean and the African and Asian continents.  

In the Southern states, they may call the sweet potato a yam, but they are not.

And to add to the confusion, the cooked, canned sweet potatoes are also not yams, even though it says so on the can label.        

post #3 of 4

Wow that's so interesting that you were able to find a variety of yams.  I'm sure there was nothing wrong with the potato you ate but I probably would have reacted the same way, especially if the taste is so similar to a white potato.  But I would try to not have any fears, they wouldn't import and then sell something that was poisonous in an American grocery store would they?  Actually, not even sure if you are in America so that might not be true if you are in some other country.

 

If you are still interested in trying out these varieties then you may want to ask someone else who is buying them.  I can't tell you how many times someone has approached me at the grocery store and has said "excuse me, what do you do with THAT?" even if I'm buying something simple like cauliflower I guarantee there are other people who don't know what to do with it.  So scope out the section where they sell these yams and approach someone to ask them "excuse me, I'm not familiar with these spuds, do you know what they are and what's a good way to prepare them?"  People love talking about what they cook and you may end up striking a very interesting conversation.  Good luck and keep up the spirit of trying new things!

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies so far smile.gif.  I am aware that yams and sweet potatoes are unrelated species.  I would love to hear from someone who has experience cooking with them!

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