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So You Think You Know Hispanic Produce?

Take our quiz to find out!

Sweet potato, yam, and boniato are different names for the same vegetable.
False – While they all have share similar traits, they aren’t the same vegetable. Boniato, also called batata, Cuban sweet potato, camote, or white sweet potato, is a smaller and less ‘sweet’ variety of traditional sweet potatoes. Native to the Americas and thought to have been cultivated as early as 1000 B.C., boniatos are big business in Florida, where more than 5,000 acres are planted every year.

Sweet potatoes, often mislabeled as yams, are moist with a sweet flavor and generally come in two varieties in the United States: white flesh with a golden skin and traditional orange flesh with brownish skin. They are also native to the Americas; in ancient Mexico, Mayans substituted sweet potatoes for corn in meals when maize crops were low.

While the terms “sweet potato” and “yam” are often used interchangeably, they are not the same vegetable. Yams are tubers native to Africa and, like boniatos, are a staple of Caribbean meals. They have more starch and drier flesh than sweet potatoes, and the skin is dark and rough like bark. Flesh can be white, purple, or red.

Jícama is often blended into ice cream, ices, or other desserts.
False – Jícama is a vegetable that looks like a potato (it is often called the Chinese or Mexican potato), but has the nutty, sweet taste and crunchy consistency of a water chestnut. In Mexico, it is usually peeled, sliced, and topped with lime juice and chili powder. It is also popular in salads and slaws. According to Sandra Aguilar, marketing manager at Ciruli Brothers, demand for jícama is on the rise, from both retailers and foodservice companies.

And though Ciruli Bros. doesn’t currently handle jícama, Aguilar has traditionally eaten it in pico de gallo (rooster’s beak), labeled as a salsa in the United States. In Mexico, however, it is not a salsa but a fruit salad. “It typically includes a combination of any of the following: fresh chopped mango, jícama, watermelon, coconut, cucumber, orange, and pineapple,” she says. “You arrange the fresh fruit in a dish and serve with a splash of lemon juice, salt, and your favorite chile topping, such as tajín or chamoy.”

Native to Southeast Asia, carambola is now widely cultivated in Mexico.
False – Carambola, also known as starfruit, is a popular yellow-fleshed fruit with a crisp, sweet taste. When sliced horizontally, it is a decorative five-pointed star, eaten raw or used in salads and desserts, pickled, or made into jam. Its taste has been compared to a combination of apple and pear tinged with a hint of citrus.

A native of Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, carambola is now grown in Central and South America and the Caribbean. It’s also grown commercially in Florida, where the trees were introduced a century ago, and in Hawaii. An interesting note: according to research by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, carambola can be toxic to people with kidney disease, as each fruit may (but doesn’t necessarily) contain enough oxalic acid to negatively affect renal function.