Garnet yams are slender, ovate and cylindrical in shape, tapering at the ends. Their rough skin, a dusty brown-maroon color, is the source of inspiration for Garnet yam’s namesake. When cooked the interior flesh is golden orange, starchy and moister than other yam varieties. Its flavor sweet with a savory earthiness will be at its sweetest when roasted, which allows the sugars of the yam to caramelize slowly. In addition to the tubers, the leaves of the Garnet yam plant are edible as well, offering both nutrients and a flavor similar to that of spinach.
Available year-round, the peak season for Garnet yams is during the fall and winter months.
The Garnet yam is, in fact, not a true yam. It is a sweet potato that lost its identity to an American labeling system that forced the naming of yellow-orange fleshed sweet potatoes to include yam in their identification. Today the USDA requires that all yams also be labeled as sweet potatoes when sold. To further add to the naming complications neither true yams or sweet potatoes are botanically potatoes at all. The Garnet yam "sweet potato" is a root vegetable of the Convolvulaceae family and botanically known as a part of Ipomoea batatas. It is the storage organ of the plant, containing nutrients and carbohydrates which sustain its above ground shoots, vines, foliage and flowers.
As far as vegetable starches go the Garnet yam is a notably healthy choice, particularly when compared to the classic white potato. Garnet yams have nearly twice the dietary fiber of russet potatoes and offer a healthy dose of vitamins C and B6, iron, copper and potassium. Yellow and orange-fleshed yams are known for their substantial beta carotene content and the more orange the flesh, the higher the beta carotene content will be. They are a recommended starch choice for those watching their blood sugar levels as they don’t cause dramatic spikes and lows in blood sugar. To achieve optimum nutritional benefits both the flesh and skin of the Garnet yam should be consumed.
The high sugar and starch content of Garnet yams make them suitable for a wide range of both sweet and savory applications, and many cooking methods. They can be roasted or baked whole and served as is or with complimentary ingredients such as butter, cinnamon, cilantro, red bell pepper, cumin, chili pepper, feta cheese, Greek yogurt, and poultry. Garnet yams can be steamed then mashed or pureed and served as is or used to make sauces, gnocchi, soups, and curries. Steamed or baked Garnet yams can also be used as a filling for both sweet and savory pies and empanadas. Slice into rounds or sticks and bake or fry to make French fries. Add cubed and roasted or sautéed Garnet yam to breakfast hash, curry, risotto, pasta or atop pizza. Complimentary flavors include sage, thyme, lime, persimmon, onion, chipotle chili, black beans, pecans, honey, maple syrup, parmesan cheese, and bacon. Refrigeration should be avoided when storing Garnet yams as it will cause them to spoil faster, rather they should be kept in a cool and dry location away from direct sunlight and heat.