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Creamy or firm when cooked, yams have an earthy, hardy taste and usually a minimal amount of sweetness. There are approximately 200 different varieties of yams with flesh colors varying from white to ivory to yellow to purple while their thick skin comes in white, pink or brownish-black. . It is a hearty tuber that does not have the sweeter taste of a sweet potato, but instead may have flavors that range from bland to earthy, slightly smoky in taste, or nutty and only moderately sweet. The shape of the yam can be oblong, tapered or round with a thick outer skin that is dark brown and bark-like, ranging from smooth to shaggy in appearance. Their dense flesh can be an off-white color to pale yellow or slightly pinkish orange with a very starchy texture.
There is great confusion between yams and sweet potatoes in the United States; most of the vegetables labeled "yams" in the markets are really orange-colored sweet potatoes.
To prepare, a yam must be peeled with a knife, to remove its bark-like skin. After peeling, submerge the white flesh in cold water to keep it from turning dark in color. Using a sharp knife, slice it from the top and then peel it as desired with a peeler. Cut it into half from the centre. Cut the half portion into another half and remove the seeds from centre. Chop by cutting them in small pieces approximately ¼ inch in diameter, although the chopped food doesn't need to be exactly the same size. If the recipe calls for the ingredients to be "coarsely chopped," make the pieces slightly larger.
How to Select
To prepare, a yam must be peeled with a knife, to remove its bark-like skin. After peeling, submerge the white flesh in cold water to keep it from turning dark in color. Dice or cube tomato by cutting them into uniform strips. Line up the strips with your non-working hand and cut them into square pieces. Cube them as per the recipe's need regarding the size of the cubes, (for example, "cut into ½-inch cubes").
Although they are available throughout the year their season runs from October through December when they are at their best. As noted in the Description section, oftentimes the root vegetable that is labeled in the store's produce section as a yam is not truly a yam but is a variety of sweet potato. Therefore, if you want to buy a real yam, you should ask someone in your store's produce department who can let you know the actual origin of the vegetable in question.
Choose yams that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises or soft spots. Avoid those that are displayed in the refrigerated section of the produce department since cold temperature negatively alters their taste. Culinary Uses
· Scrub yams just before using them, and cook them as you would a potato, either baking, steaming, frying, or boiling and mashing.
· When cooked, various varieties of yams develop a somewhat creamy flesh while other varieties remain firm.
· All yams absorb liquids exceptionally well, so after cooking, their flavor can be enhanced easily by adding flavorful seasonings, spicy or mustard sauces, or various dressings.
· Purée cooked yam with a little milk and season with tamari, coriander, cumin and cayenne.
· Add chunks of yams to your next stir fry or pan of roasted vegetables.
· Roasted yams, fennel, onions, and mushrooms are a delicious combination. How to Store
Yams should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place where they will keep fresh for up to ten days. They should be stored loose and not kept in a plastic bag. Keep them out of exposure to sunlight since this will cause them to sprout or ferment. Uncooked yams should not be kept in the refrigerator. Health Benefits
· Yams are a good source of dietary fiber; vitamin C, manganese
· Yams are a good source of both potassium and vitamin B6, two nutrients that your body needs every day. Vitamin B6 helps your body break down a substance called homocysteine, which can cause damage to blood vessel walls. High intakes of vitamin B6 have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease