Sweet potato is a starchy vegetable that is botanically known as ‘lpomoea batatas’. Sweet potato has tuberous roots and it is one of the most popular root vegetable. It also has smooth skin with different color range such red, brown and quite often purple or white. Even the flesh of sweet potatoes has different shades that vary from white to yellow and orange to purple. As a root vegetable, sweet potato is also related to potatoes. Sometimes the shoots and immature leaves of sweet potatoes are also eaten as green vegetable. As its name suggests, the vegetable has sweet taste that is incorporated in several recipes that are famous in global cuisine as sweet potato recipes. Some of the best examples of sweet potato dishes are sweet potato soup, sweet potato pie and candied sweet potato.
History of Sweet Potato
5000 years ago, sweet potatoes were started domesticated in South America and due to this reason the sweet potatoes are believed to be the native of tropical regions of southern parts of America. Polynesian region is also known as the early place of the cultivation of sweet potato by the name of ‘kumara’. In the recent times, it has been observed that sweet potatoes has now started growing in almost all hot and temperate regions that can easily support its cultivation with enough water.
Culinary Uses of Sweet Potato
Due to its sweet taste, sweet potato is considered as a highly appetizing vegetable in culinary world. It has varied uses in sweet as well as savory dishes. Sweet potato recipes are popular in tropical regions as staple food. Baked sweet potato dishes are fondly eaten in breakfast or while sipping a cup of tea. The most popular form of sweet potato used in cooking is boiled sweet potato. It is easily incorporated in pies, pancakes, desserts and soups. Even boiled sweet potato ‘chaat’ is quite famous in some cuisines.
Popularly eaten pizzas are also prepared with sweet potato toppings. Fried sweet potato slices or chips are well-liked as snacks. Other sweet potato recipes include sweet potato spread and sweet potato fermented spirit. Leaves and shoots of sweet potato are also the edible parts of this tuberous vegetable.
Popular Sweet Potato Recipes
• Bubur caca – It is a Malaysian dessert made with coconut milk and sweet potato.
• Kamote cue – It is one of the most popular Filipino sweet potato recipes that is made by deep frying the caramelized cubes of sweet potato. It is often sold by the street vendors in Philippines.
• Candied sweet potatoes – It is a North American dish and it is one of the most commonly served sweet potato dishes in Thanksgiving ceremony.
• Imo Jochu – It is one of the most unique and rare sweet potato recipes. It is a kind of Japanese spirit that is fermented with sweet potatoes. Its rice version is quite popular.
Cuisines Commonly Making Sweet Potato Dishes
This starchy and sweet vegetable plays an important role in the cooking culture of various cuisines. In most of the cuisines sweet potatoes are considered as a staple crop.
• African cuisine – The sun-dried variety of sweet potato is quite popular in making sweet potato recipes in the cuisines of African countries. It is mainly eaten with peanut sauce in breakfast and also added with tamarind and flour of cassava to make a popular African dish called ‘atapa’. Atapa is fondly eaten with cooked fish. Leaves of vegetable and even boiled sweet potatoes are quite popular in West African countries.
• Asian cuisine – Baked or roasted sweet potatoes are commonly served as a street food in Japan and China. In India, sweet potato is popularly known as ‘shakarkandi’ and roasted shakarkandi ‘chaat’ is eaten as an appetizer in Indian cuisine. Sweet and savory sweet potato recipes are widely used in Taiwanese, Korean, Malaysian and Filipino cuisines.
• North American cuisine – Some of the traditional American dishes make good use of sweet potatoes such as sweet potato pie and candied sweet potato. Even baked sweet potatoes and sweet potato fries are well-liked in US meals.
• Other cuisines – Natives of New Zeeland used to cook sweet potatoes or popularly known as ‘kumara’ in an oven dug in the mud. This process makes an appetizing baked sweet potato that is eaten as a traditional dish. In Northeastern Spain, ‘boniato’ is the common name for sweet potato; it is roasted and traditionally served with chestnuts and sweet wine at the occasion of La Castanyada.
Preferred Methods of Making Sweet Potato Recipes
• Baked – Sweet potato can be eaten independently while baking as well as it can be added as an ingredient to make several baked sweet dishes.
• Roasted – Traditionally, sweet potatoes are roasted in earthen pots or with coal. Smoke gives an intense flavor to the roasted sweet potato.
• Boiled – Sweet potatoes are boiled and incorporated in recipes for salads, desserts and appetizers.
• Sautéed – Savory sweet potato recipes call for sautéed vegetable.
• Fried – Sweet potato slices and fingers are deep-fried to make chips and fries.
• Candied – Caramelized and candied sweet potatoes are well-liked dessert or street food in various cuisines.
Nutritive Value of Sweet Potato
Sweet potato is a highly nutritious vegetable and this is confirmed by the ‘Center for Science in Public Interest’. In 1992, this Center compared the nutrients of sweet potato with other available vegetables in terms of proteins, calcium and iron. Even complex carbohydrates along with vitamin A & C are also measured. The results of this comparison show that sweet potatoes ranked on the top of the list. Dietary fiber and beta carotene are also found in sweet potato.
Though sweet potato is considered as a ‘sweet’ vegetable but it is an excellent food for diabetics in terms of lowering the use of insulin and stabilizing the level of sugar in blood.
Buying and Storage of Sweet Potato
It is always recommended to buy firm sweet potatoes and make sure that vegetable is free from bruises and soft spots.
Sweet potatoes can be stored in refrigerator for up to a month where as in room temperature this root vegetable will not stay fresh after a week. Before keeping it in refrigerator, clean the dirt from the vegetable and wrap it in a plastic or paper bag along with an apple. This practice prevents budding in the sweet potato. Sweet potato dishes can also be refrigerated for up to 3-4 days.
Types of Sweet Potato
There are two types of sweet potato: Orange fleshed sweet potato and white fleshed variety.
• Orange-fleshed – This variety is little moist in texture and contains higher beta carotene than the white variety.
• White-fleshed – It is considered as the dry kind of sweet potato. It is often used to make baked sweet potato recipes.
Sweet Potato Trivia
• 90% of the world’s production of sweet potato comes from Asia.
• Vardaman, Mississippi is known as the world capital of sweet potato.