More than any other political or serious question at the Thanksgiving dinner table, one question remains the most pressing every year: Are those sweet potatoes or yams? America, the answer is devastatingly simple and obvious. So, in order to make your intense Thanksgiving discussions a little easier, we've created a simple flowchart that settles the heavy debate once and for all:
Bottom Line: If its insides are orange and its skin is smooth and coppery, you should always call it a sweet potato. If the insides are pure white (as opposed to cream), it's likely a yam. And if the insides are reddish or purple, you're more certainly in yam territory.
So why were you calling them yams in the first place? You can thank the USDA for that little lie. There are actually two different types of sweet potatoes, one that has creamy white flesh, and one that has an orange flesh. In order to differentiate between the two, the USDA started labeling the orange ones as "yams" and the lighter ones as "sweet potatoes." Yams, native to Africa and Asia and other tropical regions, always have a white, purple or reddish flesh. Thanks for confusing us, U.S. government.
For more historical background on the two vegetables, and why this confusion happened, check this out.
Clarification: Tuber or not tuber, that was the question. And this post has been updated to reflect that some varieties of sweet potato do have white flesh.