Everything You Need to Know About Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato Facts, Selection, and Storage

Sautéed Sweet Potatoes

 The Spruce

Sweet potatoes are often mistakenly called yams, but they are two different vegetables. While they are similar to potatoes this root vegetable isn't as hardy and will require some special care when choosing and storing. Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about the sweet potato. 

History of the Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are the root of a vine in the morning glory family and native to the New World tropics. Its history dates back to 750 B.C. in Peruvian records. Columbus brought the sweet potato to the New World from the island of Saint Thomas. Sweet potatoes are a favorite in the Southern US, particularly for the Thanksgiving holiday. 


Watch Now: What are the Differences Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes?

Botanical Name

Ipomoea batatas

Common and Other Names

sweet potato, yam (in error), patata, patae, susse kartoffel, patata dulce, patate douce, patata dolce, batata doce, batatas

Sweet Potato Availability

Prime season for fresh sweet potatoes is from October to January but they are available sporadically throughout the year. They are also readily available canned and frozen year-round. Buying them in-season is always preferable as their off-season prices can be more expensive. Many also find the flavors are richer in season. 

Sweet Potato Selection

Select tubers with tight, unwrinkled skins with no blemishes or bruises. You'll want to avoid bruised sweet potatoes as they will rot very quickly.

Sweet Potato Varieties and Forms

The yellow or orange tubers are elongated with ends that taper to a point and are of two dominant types. The paler-skinned sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin with pale yellow flesh which is not sweet and has a dry, crumbly texture similar to a white baking potato. The darker-skinned one (most often called yam in error) has a thicker, dark orange skin with vivid orange, sweet flesh, and moist texture. Varieties include Goldrush, Georgia Red, Centennial, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, and Velvet.

Sweet Potato Storage

Unlike potatoes, fresh sweet potatoes generally do not store well, except under ideal conditions, and bruised ones rapidly deteriorate. In a dry, dark, cool (55 F.) place, they can last up to three to four weeks. Plan on using within one week of purchase and do not refrigerate. Cooked sweet potatoes can be stored in the refrigerator in a covered container for 4 to 5 days. To freeze, pack in an airtight container, leaving 1/2-inch headroom and store for 10 to 12 months at 0 F.

Miscellaneous Sweet Potato Information

Unfortunately, when sweet potatoes begin to go bad, you cannot just cut away the bad part, since the damage will be reflected in the flavor of the entire potato.

Canned sweet potatoes are readily available year-round and are often confusingly labeled as yams.