Alayam: Candy from Sweet Potatoes

October 7, 2009 at 7:36 am 5 comments

For U.S. manufacturers as well as ordinary citizens, World War II meant shortages and rationing of many staple goods, including sugar. Citizens were encouraged to substitute honey and syrup in their home cooking. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture began to encourage the development of substitutes for sugar that would satisfy the nation’s demand for candy.

Close-up of a sweet potato

In Alabama, the Agricultural Research Station at Auburn began experimenting with a local crop, the sweet potato, sometimes also called the yam. After some mixing and melting and molding and such, they came up with something promising. In naming the new candy they melted together the state of its invention and the name of the now exalted tuber. They called it: Alayam.

Alayam was described as “a cocoanut brittle made with sweet potatoes.” The candy had potential. Some people liked it. In consumer acceptance tests, researchers determined that “40 percent of the nation’s consumers like this new product as well as or better than the candies they are currently buying or eating” and that “more than a third… would buy the product if it were available on the market.” A little luke-warm as endorsements go, but the point is, they didn’t spit it out.

Of course, neither the Alabama Station nor the U.S.D.A. was equipped to bring such a candy to the consumer market. Sugar rationing having been lifted in 1947, candy manufacturers were not so eager to experiment with marketing strange candy substances. And so Alayam never came to be.

It was perhaps an idea before its time. In today’s climate of concern about what goes into the food that goes into our bodies, maybe a sweet potato candy is just what we need.

Source: “Candy from Sweet Potatoes May Become Popular,” Confectioners Journal May 1950, p. 43.

Entry filed under: Candies We Miss, Candy Making, Health, Ingredients, WWII to 1960s. Tags: , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Leona  |  October 11, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I can see it already:

    Yam & Yam’s w/peanuts
    O’ Yammies
    Bit o’ Yammey
    Yammy Road
    Good n’ Yammy
    Yamond Joy
    Yamond Roca
    Yam and Laters

    Reply
  • 2. tigertail777  |  February 6, 2010 at 5:50 am

    Not so far fetched as you may think. I am borderline diabetic and my nutritionist told me that the sugars in sweet potatoes are processed differently and actually better for you than regular sugar. They also have a different kind of starch that is far better for you than white potatoes.

    Reply
    • 3. CandyProfessor  |  February 6, 2010 at 7:52 pm

      Interesting, I hadn’t thought of that angle. We need an in-house chemist to explain what happens to these different sugars when they are “cooked,” I’m curious if the sugars in sweet potatoes are still bound up after going through some candy-fying process, or if they are released into forms that end up being metabolically indistinguishable from sucrose and glucose. Unfortunately, the Alayam report didn’t go very far into how they processed the sweet potatoes or what their nutritional qualities were in the aftermath. I think the idea at that time was more about finding something to do with sweet potatoes. If any nutritionist or chemist has further ideas, I hope we’ll hear!

      Reply
  • 4. Potato Caramels and Parsnip Nougat « CandyProfessor  |  February 15, 2010 at 9:36 am

    […] Alayam: Candy from Sweet Potatoes […]

    Reply
  • 5. Vegetable Candy Revolution « Candy Professor  |  June 2, 2010 at 9:57 am

    […] Alayam: Candy from Sweet Potatoes […]

    Reply

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Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

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