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About Sweet Potatoes

Is it a yam or a sweet potato? Let’s lay this controversy to rest. They are in no way related. A sweet potato is a member of the Morning Glory family while Yams are members of the Lily family. Yams are native to Africa while Sweet Potatoes are native to Central and South America. What we consume in the country is Sweet Potatoes. They were cultivated in this country by Native Americans before Columbus arrived. The word Yam became synonymous with Sweet Potato when Louisiana started using it the market their moist, orange fleshed Puerto Rican varieties back in the 1930s. The prime season for Sweet Potatoes is October through January but several varieties are available throughout the year.

Varieties

In this country the varieties of Sweet Potatoes fall into two main categories…white and orange. A purple variety is also grown in Japan. The most common white flesh variety is the Jersey Sweet Potato. They are characterized as being drier and less sweet than the orange flesh varieties. However, they still possess excellent flavor.

The orange flesh varieties include:

Garnet: Deep red skin and vibrant orange flesh. This premium variety has a creamy texture and is very sweet. It is a favorite for pies, cakes and breads.

Red: Very similar to the Garnet but the skin is not as dark. Again, it has intense orange flesh and is excellent eating.

Jewel: With bright, smooth, orange skin and sweet orange flesh, it is one of the most popular varieties.

Beauregard: Today it is one of the most widely available variety of Louisiana “Yam.” It is characteristically somewhat rougher skinned than the Jewel but with its sweet, creamy, orange flesh it is a true crowd-pleaser.

Selection

Select Sweet Potatoes that are firm and without cuts or bruises. The ends should not be wrinkled. Their size varies greatly so you can generally find just the right potatoes for your particular need. Unlike some fruits and vegetables, once a Sweet Potato starts to go bad, you can not simple cut away the affected area as the taste of the whole potato will be compromised.

Storage

Sweet Potatoes should never be refrigerated until after cooking. They should be stored in a dry, dark place at 55 degrees. While they can last for several weeks you should plan to use your purchase within a week. Cooked Sweet Potatoes can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

Uses and Preparation

Sweet Potatoes should be washed just prior to preparation. They can be baked or boiled until tender. They also microwave very well. Before baking or microwaving be sure to pierce them with a fork.

Once cooked, Sweet Potatoes can be used in a variety of ways ranging from simply a “baked” Sweet Potato to casseroles, French fries, salads, breads, and even desserts like cakes and pies.

Nutrition

Sweet Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A. One medium potato (about one cup) contains over twice your RDA (Recommended Daily Requirement).

Sweet Potatoes also contain 42% of the RDA for vitamin C, 10% of the RDA for Iron, 8% of the RDA for Thiamine and 6% of the RDA for Calcium. They are a good source of Potassium and the orange flesh varieties are particularly high in Beta-carotene as well. At just 140 calories per serving, they are a valuable source of nutrition for those people that are watching their weight.