In Season: Sweet Potatoes

by in In Season, November 3, 2009

Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Don’t confuse these holiday favorites with yams. Loaded with vitamins, they’re a sweeter alternative to a plain old potato. Here are 12 ways to try them.

What, Where & When?
They may have “potatoes” in their name, but they aren’t even in the same family as potatoes. These tubers are a different kind of root vegetable that comes from the same plant family as the morning glory flower. And even though some folks use the names interchangeably, sweet potatoes also aren’t the same as yams, which are starchier root veggies with a less sweet flavor.

So what are they? Well, sweet potatoes are one of the oldest veggies on record, with traces of them dating back more than 10,000 years! These days, you’ll find them in season from as early as August through November.

Sweet potato skin can range in color from brown to orange to purple, while the flesh can be white or various shades of orange. One of the most common varieties is “Beauregard,” but I’ve seen some wild ones at my local farmers’ market. My favorite so far this year has been the purple-skinned and dark orange-fleshed “Carolina Ruby” — great for roasting or baking in the skin.

Nutrition Facts
A medium baked sweet potato has 105 calories, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber and more than 400% of your daily vitamin A in the antioxidant form known as beta-carotene. They’re also a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Sweet potatoes with dark orange flesh also contain the antioxidant lycopene.

What To Do With Sweet Potatoes
I love to make my sweets smashed. Instead of boiling them, I bake them in the skin until tender. Once they cool, I remove most of the skin and place them in a saucepan over low heat with a pat of butter, a few spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, salt and pepper. A quick smash with a fork or a potato masher and they’re good to go — simple and yummy! I also make lots of oven fries; I always make extra to chop up and add to grain salads. Try my Sweet Potato Quinoa for a satisfying lunch.

You can also steam, sauté, grill or boil sweet potatoes for salads, soups, pancakes and biscuits. Many folks like to pair theirs with brown sugar or cinnamon, but I prefer mine with salt, lime, smoky chipotle pepper or even coconut. If you’re a fan of the even sweeter combo of sweet potatoes and marshmallows, how about swapping out sugary marshmallows for the natural sweetness of honey instead?

Shopping Tip: Choose sweet potatoes that are firm with intact skin (no large dents or blemishes). Store in a cool, dry place for up to four weeks. Once cooked, keep in the fridge for five to seven days or freezer for six to nine months.

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