Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Season for Sweet Potatoes November – December

Sweet Potatoes Described

First things first: The orange, sweet root vegetable that is often called a “yam” and showcased in America’s beloved Thanksgiving dish “candied yams,” is actually a sweet potato – not a yam at all! In fact, you likely won’t come across yams too often in North America – though the word is thrown around mighty erroneously – the term just borrowed to distinguish orange-fleshed sweet potatoes from white-fleshed ones. Sweet potatoes actually come in over 400 varieties, colors ranging white to cream, yellow, orange, and pink to a very deep purple, although white and yellow-orange flesh are most common. The sweet potato is one of the oldest vegetables around known to used in prehistoric times.

How to Buy and Store Sweet Potatoes

When buying fresh sweet potatoes choose those that are smooth with unbruised skins, sans cracks or any soft spots. Avoid those in the refrigerated section of your grocery store as cold temperatures can affect the taste – in a bad way. Sweet potatoes store well only in very particular conditions, which are dry, dark and around 55°F (like a traditional root cellar), where they can be stored for 3 to 4 weeks. But for more practical purposes, you should just keep them away from heat in a well ventilated place (not in plastic) and use them within a week.

How to Cook Sweet Potatoes

Besides those Candied Sweet Potatoes, Sweet Potato Pie is an autumnal treat. And Sweet Potato Butter is a gourmet spread you can make (or buy) that is a healthy, delicious alternative to dairy butter. White-fleshed sweet potatoes can be used much in the same way as other mild, crumbly potatoes, but as the orange ones are delicately sweet and fluffy, they cook much more quickly and go well in desserts. They can also be baked, mashed or roasted, or add something special to vegetable soups, risottos, pasta dishes and curries. Research has shown some nutritional advantages to roasting over boiling when it comes to sweet potatoes,

Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are as rich in nutrients as they are in color and flavor, one of our 10 Nutrient-Rich Foods that Fight Disease. Rife with complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, Vitamins A, B6 & C, copper, potassium and iron, vibrantly hued varieties are high in beta carotene which converts into Vitamin A in the body. Both beta carotene and Vitamin C are very powerful antioxidants that work in the body to eliminate free radicals, making sweet potatoes a healing power food. They also contain unique root storage proteins that have been observed to have pointed antioxidant capacities.

Why Buy Natural and Organic Sweet Potatoes

With organically-grown sweet potatoes, you can eat the entire tuber – flesh and skin – which carries the maximum health benefits (of which many are in the skin), as well as added texture. Conventionally grown sweet potatoes you’ll need to peel before eating since the skin can be treated with dyes or waxes. The Environmental Working Group cites potatoes as one of the worst (or Dirty Dozen as they say) vegetables in terms of pesticide contamination. 

Steer clear of canned sweet potatoes, often mis-labeled as yams, for cans contain the very controversial Bisphenol A (BPA) which has been linked to cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, obesity, and insulin resistance (which can lead to Type II diabetes).