Whole Story

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Potatoes and Yams

By James Parker, November 10, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by James Parker
potato1 Some of the basic staples of my family's fall and winter diet are potatoes and yams. Fall brings a virtual cornucopia of new crop, freshly dug varieties and with that new crop we reintroduce some favorite ways of preparing them at home. Potatoes and yams (or sweet potatoes) are one of the largest and most geographically diverse crops produced in the U.S. Many of the large-scale organic producers are concentrated on the west coast, so regardless of where you live you will likely see some Washington or California product in your store. But all over the U.S. there are large and small producers that provide varieties often unique to the region where they are grown. Ask our Team Members in your store's produce department if there are potatoes and yams local to your area. potato2I have two basic preparation methods for potatoes and yams: roasted and mashed. The method I use depends on the variety I happen to buy. For yams I tend to stick with the lower oil content Garnet and my process is simple. I slice them into long narrow strips (like steak potatoes), brush them with olive oil and roast them until they are soft to the touch. I like the Garnet variety because it is not as heavy as the Jewel but both can be prepared in the same way. For potatoes, I start them all the same way regardless of how I finish cooking them. All my potatoes get partially cooked by boiling - I find this saves me roasting time and helps to keep the potato moist. One of my favorite roasting potatoes is the fingerling. There are many varieties (like the Russian banana and Ruby Crescent) but most are small "finger" shaped potatoes that are perfect for the oven. I will boil them for 20 minutes or so, drain and let them cool, then slice them lengthwise into a mixing boil. To add flavor, I heat a dressing that is equal parts olive oil and butter combined with some chives, parsley, oregano, and minced garlic and toss the potatoes in it. I then lay the potatoes flat on a cookie sheet and grate some Parmesan over top. In the oven they go at 375°F and 25 minutes later, heaven comes out. potato3Yams curing in the field Mashing is the second most popular method with my family and I've found a combination of russet and red potatoes gives me the best results. These get cubed and boiled a bit longer than my fingerlings and I add a similar herb/oil/butter mixture, including with it some milk or chicken broth. I like a creamy mashed potato so I will use my blender to take out lumps after I have mashed them. For a variation in flavor I will also occasionally throw in some cubed celery root or rutabagas when I'm boiling my potatoes. This not only changes the flavor slightly but lightens the texture as well. (Celery root mashed potatoes are great with salmon). Happy Fall!




sheri says ...
The roasted sweet potatoes sound incredible! I have become a big fan of baked potatoes recently. I coat the outside with salt and then cook in a toaster oven at high heat, unwrapped, around 425 or 450. It doesn't take as long in the toaster oven and the skin gets crunchy. It makes the skin a great textural contrast to the potato.
11/10/2009 7:18:07 AM CST
Elyse Eisenberg says ...
I highly recommend a recipe for Autumn Potato Salad from 101 Cookbooks: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/autumn-potato-salad-recipe.html
11/11/2009 11:24:08 AM CST
Sarah says ...
Can you add more ideas for Sweet Pototoes? I love them however I tend to bake them add butter, salt & pepper. There has to be more way to fix them.
11/10/2009 2:50:15 PM CST
Manjit says ...
My favourite is baking sweet potatoes in aluminum foil for about 30 mts, till well done. Once done open the foil made a deep linear slash in the potatoe add a dolop of cream cheese with dash of salt, pepper, lemon zest and eat it really hot with fork !
11/12/2009 7:28:26 PM CST
marlon braccia says ...
I've been told that most vegetables labeled yams in the stores are not true yams, but sweet potatoes instead. True yams are apparently much healthier. Maybe its because they are lower on the glycemic index? I've also heard that true yams are very, very large, as in 12" or so and not the size of an idaho potato for instance, Can you please shed some clarity on what is a real yam?
11/12/2009 8:15:09 PM CST
Missy says ...
Hi, Quite a few years ago, a friend of mine in N.C. was working on her degree in agriculture and brought us a variety of a sweet potato called a Puerto Rican . They were the best, sweetest sweet potato we have ever had. Would you know anything about these and if they are grown in N.C or S.C. (where I live)?
11/12/2009 9:04:55 PM CST
Lindsey says ...
I have to try the roasted fingerlings, they sound amazing.
11/15/2009 2:35:38 PM CST
parkerj says ...
Wow! some great cooking ideas! The Manjit one sounds incredible. Marlon braccia- the story as I know it is all varieties of Yam grown in the US are really sweet potatoes. The "true" yam is an African semi tropical root vegetable that is also grown in the Carribean and Central. It is sold here in the US under the name "Name" (pronounced Na-may). Missy- I have not heard of a variety called "Puerto Rican" but that does not mean it is not sold in the US- I suggest you look for them in your local ethnic markets. James Parker
11/16/2009 2:00:31 PM CST
Heather @ Green Baby Green Mama says ...
The boiling is a great tip - large potatoes take forever to bake if you don't boil them first.
02/16/2010 9:41:55 PM CST
Maria says ...
Looking for something for the mother-in-law. puerto rican red sweet potatoes. any idea where i can find them. she said she has bought them here in georgia before.
11/11/2010 8:13:48 AM CST
elizabeth says ...
please note that yams are not sweet potatoes...here is one website explaining the differences http://homecooking.about.com/od/howtocookvegetables/a/sweetpotatodiff.htm
03/27/2011 10:28:16 AM CDT
Dan says ...
I bought "yams" at my local Glastonbury CT Whole Foods. I couldn't find any labeled "sweet potatoes" then found both signs listed the Yams as Sweet Potatoes in the description. BUT Yams are not the same as Sweet Potatoes - so what did I buy?
02/07/2014 4:15:39 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@DAN - Sorry for the signage mix-up. I would suggest calling the store directly to speak with Produce to see exactly what they are!
02/07/2014 5:24:49 PM CST
stanley D. Rose says ...
I love to eat yams,sweet potatoes. Which brands r GMO? Need to know. T.Y.
07/20/2014 11:39:13 AM CDT
Janet Chumley says ...
I bought some sweet potatoes there with dark orange skin. To my surprise, when cooked, they are white and mealy on the inside, very unpleasant unless loaded with butter. How is this a sweet potato? Can you label it better in the store as a non-sweet mealy tuber? Meanwhile what can I do to cook the rest so they are edible? Thanks. Janet
07/20/2014 12:37:01 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JANET - Sorry that you didn't enjoy the potatoes. The store would be happy to replace them for you if you reach out to them directly. There are quite a few varieties of sweet potatoes so they will be happy to suggest a sweeter option for you.
07/21/2014 1:52:06 PM CDT
Diana says ...
I would like to come to your stop (have done so many times before) and shop for Organic Yams. I know you have many organic produce. I really need to know if you have these yams. Thank you - Faithful Customer Diana
10/18/2014 3:23:29 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@DIANA - Our exact availability will differ between stores. Check with your local store directly to find out what they have in stock!
10/20/2014 1:03:51 PM CDT
JaNet says ...
I LOVE the Garnet Sweet Potatoes but I am not noticing that Whole Foods does not have them anymore? Is this a seasonal potatoes that Whole Foods will not carry year around???
01/27/2015 1:25:30 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JANET - Typically they are more seasonal but I would suggest checking with your local store directly to find out if they carry these year round.
01/27/2015 4:49:08 PM CST