As sweet-potato expert April McGreger explains, what we Southerners—and all Americans—think of as yams probably aren't the real deal.
True yams, which are large, hairy roots of tropical origin, come from Africa. Since there were none of these in America, we've substituted our sweet potato and given it the same name. What makes the distinction even more difficult is that in the 1930s the USDA allowed Louisiana to brand the distinctive Puerto-Rican sweet potato a yam. So it never was, and it never will be, except in namesake. But, as McGreger explains, simply call it what you will. It is a sweet potato for all intents and purposes, and it looks and cooks the same—because it is the same thing.
That's not to say we don't love this delicious vegetable nonetheless, and to prove it we've got great recipes that include Slow Cooker Candied Yams, as well as Yam Jam: a reader favorite from Sheri Castle's Southern Living Community Cookbook. Whatever you like to call it, this is one tasty treat. So make some candied yams, or some yam jams, because life is sweet . . . potatoes.