Yams are often mistakenly called sweet potatoes, and vice versa, but they are two different vegetables. The true yam is the tuber of a tropical vine, and is not even distantly related to the sweet potato. Although they are available throughout the year their season runs from October through December when they are at their best. It is uncertain from which country yams originate but it has been found that yams are one of the oldest food plants known. They have been cultivated since 5,000 B.C. with over 150 varieties available worldwide. Generally sweeter than the sweet potato, this tuber can grow over seven feet in length and weigh up to 150 pounds They are at home growing in tropical climates, primarily in South America, Africa and the Caribbean. Yams are important to this day for survival in these regions. The tubers can be stored up to six months without refrigeration, which makes them a valuable resource for the yearly period of food scarcity at the beginning of the wet season. As yams are not widely available in the U.S., you may find that your store does not carry true yams although you are certain to find them in many Asian, Latin American, Caribbean and African food markets. If you find them, a true yam will most likely be sold in chunks sealed in plastic wrap. The yam tuber has a dark brown to light pink skin which resembles the bark of a tree and off-white, purple or red flesh, depending on the variety. Yams contain more natural sugar than sweet potatoes and have a higher moisture content. True yams do not contain as much Vitamin A and C as sweet potatoes, but they are a good source of vitamin B6, fiber and potassium. As with sweet potatoes, choose yams with unblemished tight, unwrinkled skins and firm flesh. Store in a cool, dark, dry area for up to two weeks, and do not refrigerate. True yams are toxic if eaten raw but perfectly safe when cooked. Cooked yams may be kept refrigerated for two to three days and frozen using the same method as sweet potatoes. Candied Yams 2 pounds garnet yams (or sweet potatoes) 3 (2 inch) strips orange zest (white, spongy pith removed) 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half 1/2 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice 1/2 cup pure maple syrup 2 tablespoons pure olive oil 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice 2 teaspoons peeled and finely chopped ginger root 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Peel and halve the yams crosswise. Cut each half lengthwise into four wedges. Place the yams in a baking dish that will hold them in a snug, single layer. Tuck the orange zest and cinnamon sticks among the yams. In a bowl, whisk together the orange and lemon juice, maple syrup, oil, ginger and salt. Pour the mixture over the yams. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, basting every 15 minutes, until the yams are tender and glazed and the pan juices are syrupy. Remove the orange zest and cinnamon before serving. Next week: Greens Facts in these articles are obtained from medical and clinical journals, scientific publications, and published tradebooks. These articles have been written and published strictly for information purposes. For any questions contact Susan at trijrsL@msn.com or www.fruitandveggienurse.com.

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