This is an update on a blog post I published a few years ago showing how to dehydrate sweet potatoes or yams. I had purchased Sam’s Yams brand sweet potato chews for the dogs and got the idea to make sweet potato treats for the parrots.
Before we proceed with dehydrating yams, there’s something you need to know. They’re not actually yams. Americans have been making the mistake of calling sweet potatoes “yams” when there’s actually a difference. Sweet potatoes and yams are not even related. They are two different species of root vegetable with very different backgrounds and uses. In most cases sweet potatoes are labeled with both terms, which just adds to the confusion. Since there are two types of sweet potatoes, one with creamy white flesh and one with orange, the USDA labels the orange-fleshed ones “yams” to distinguish them from the paler variety.
I like the orange-fleshed variety of sweet potato (more commonly labeled as “yam” in supermarkets). So I chose thick chunky medium-size yams that taper toward the ends. I peeled them and cut them into about 1 inch slices.
I put the yam slices in a large pot of water which I brought to a boil. I blanched for about 3 to 4 minutes until they were almost tender. I wanted them tender but firm enough that I could punch holes in the center of the slices without having them fall apart in the process.
Then I drained the potatoes into a colander and immediately put them in a sink of ice water.
I removed the potatoes from the ice water with a slotted spoon and place them back in the colander and placed the colander in a bowl to catch the drips.
I wanted to be able to string some of the sweet potato treats on parrot toys which would require having a hole in the slices. I used an apple corer to put holes into the slices before dehydrating.
I saved the hole punch out pieces and dehydrated them as well. Those pieces can be used to put in foraging cups or other toys and the larger slices with holes can be strung on toys.
I put the trays in the dehydrator and set the drying temperature for 140 F (60 C) until dry.
I have an Excalibur dehydrator and in this one the thick slices dried very tough to brittle in about 8 to 10 hours. There are a number of less expensive dehydrators on the market that will do a good job of dehydrating sweet potatoes. American Harvest/Nesco Dehydrators are inexpensive and widely available. Drying times will vary with the type of dehydrator you use.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, there are instructions on the internet for how to dry sweet potatoes in the oven. One of the disadvantages of drying in an oven is the cost of the energy used. Oven drying takes 2 or 3 times longer than drying in a dehydrator and time is required to tend and rotate the food. Food dried in an oven is usually darker, more brittle and less flavorful than food dried in a dehydrator. Since most ovens lowest temperature setting is 175 F (80 C) to 200 F (95 C) it is difficult to maintain temperatures of 140 F (60 C) while drying and the food may cook before it dries.
The book states dried sweet potatoes stored longer than 1 or 2 months at room temperature develop an undesirable flavor. I plan on using these as foraging treats in and on toys, so I made no more than I will use up in about 2 months. I store them in a sealed plastic container which I keep in my craft/bird toy making room.