There is a lot of confusion on how to differentiate between yams and sweet potatoes, as they look familiar. Read on to know more.

Yams Vs Sweet Potatoes

Yams are the natives of African and Asian countries, while sweet potatoes are a common name in the American households. Years before, when sweet potatoes were commonly cultivated in America, African slaves called it yam, as the soft sweet potatoes resembled the yams cultivated in Africa. This tradition is still carried on in the United States with sweet potatoes being marketed with the label of yams. In fact, it is a law there that every pack of sweet potato must have an additional label with the term yam printed on it. What more is required to disarray your concept of a yam and a sweet potato? That is not all. Some even have this misconception that both these vegetables are the same, and it is just their names that are used interchangeably. Isn’t it weird to call a sweet potato, a yam, and give it a wrong identity? You can find some interesting differences between sweet potatoes and yams here, so that, the next time you see a sweet potato you will call it a sweet potato and not a yam.
Differences Between Yam And Sweet Potatoes 
Given here are some differences between yam and sweet potatoes:

Botanical Differences 
It will come as a surprise to learn that yams and sweet potatoes belong to two entirely different plant families. While yams (Dioscorea villosa) belong to the genus Dioscorea of the Dioscoreaceae family, sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) come under the genus Ipomoea of the family Convolvulaceae. This shows that yams are the distant relatives of lilies and grasses, while sweet potatoes are closer to potatoes. Sweet potatoes are also referred to as 'tuberous morning glory', as the family includes garden flowers called morning glories.
Differences In Shape And Size 
Shape and size is the best way any layman can differentiate between a yam and a sweet potato as they can better understand what they see. Appearances wise sweet potatoes have thin and smooth skins like those of potatoes, whereas yams have thicker and rough skin and at times scaly too. The skins of yams usually tend to look like the bark of a tree. Going by the size, sweet potatoes have tapered ends, and are relatively short and stubby, while yams are more cylindrical and long. But again, some yams like the elephant yams are round in shape, like a big bowl. Yams are usually cultivated in Asian and African countries, and in Africa, they have a festival associated with yam where the cultivators exhibit the longest and the heaviest of the yams that they had cultivated. 

Color Difference
Even the color matters while distinguishing a vegetable. The skin color of yams ranges from brown to black, depending upon the soil of the cultivation. In the case of sweet potatoes the skin color can be anything from pale yellow, orangish yellow, red or purple. Even the color of the flesh of both the vegetables is different. While yam’s flesh can be off-white, pale yellow, purple or red in color, the color of sweet potato’s flesh is pale yellow for almost all the varieties, except for the orange one, which comes with a bright orange flesh. 

Taste And Texture
Sweet potatoes are sweet as their very name suggests, the orange-skinned ones being sweeter than the pale yellow ones. Yams are more starchy than sweet. The difference in taste can very well be identified once you eat these vegetables. Texture wise, sweet potatoes are more moist, whereas yams have a dry texture. 

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