Virtually every supermarket and natural/organic food store is now offering sweet Thanksgiving deals on holiday sweet potatoes, including organic varieties.

My shopping trips have revealed mixed results. Some of the sweet potatoes have been blemish-free beauties, while others were moldy mounds.

When shopping for sweet potatoes, look for firmness, dark coloring and a smooth texture. Head to another market if the selection sports wrinkles, bruises, sprouts or decay. (Even if you cut away the decay, the flavor will be rank.)

Maintain freshness by storing fresh sweet potatoes in a dry, cool (55°F to 60°F) place, such as a cellar, pantry or garage. Do not store them in the refrigerator; they’ll develop a hard core and unpleasant taste.

Stored properly, sweet potatoes will keep for roughly 30 days. If you’re going to store them at room temperature, they’ll last about a week.

Never wash sweet potatoes until you’re about to cook them. Excess moisture promotes spoilage. When you’re ready to cook, wash them thoroughly. Whenever possible, leave the skins on, as they contain most of the vegetable’s nutrients.

Sweet potatoes with dark-orange flesh are moister, while those with lighter skins and yellow flesh are decidedly less sweet and plump. Yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes also require a longer cook time. Avoid mixing the two varieties when cooking, as you’ll encounter textural differences and uneven doneness.

Photo courtesy of the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission