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Are yams also sweet potatoes? What’s the difference?

Are yams also sweet potatoes? What’s the difference?

  • There's a little thing we need to know about these nutritious (and delicious) root crops

Ah, the kamote, the sweet superfood we love as a snack, dessert and even main starch. 

But did you know that even if kamote in Filipino refers to both sweet potatoes and yams, those are two different root crops?

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes (Ipomea batatas) are known to be versatile crops and are one of the “most well-known and extensively cultivated root crop in the country,” according to an article in the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Research publication.

Aside from the root which is a staple ingredient in dishes and snacks like kamote chips, kamote fries and kamotecue, its leaves (talbos ng kamote) are also used in a variety of vegetable dishes.


Meanwhile, the yam is from a different root crop family (Dioscoreaceae). In Asia, the Dioscorea alata variety, also known as ube, is more common. This purple yam is what is used to make all the ube products we love, like halaya. 

The yam has a more bark-like skin compared to the sweet potato. 

So why the confusion?

Aside from the fact that both sweet potatoes and yam are called kamote in the Philippines, all over the world the terms sweet potato and yam have been used interchangeably. This resulted in the impression that the two are similar crops.

In an article, Bon Appetit shared an explanation by cookbook author Mary-Frances Heck: “The reason for the name mix-up, she explains, is because Louisiana sweet potato growers marketed their orange-fleshed as ‘yams’ to distinguish from other states’ produce in the 1930s—and it stuck.”

Well, that explains it. Today we learned. © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.