Culinary Sleuth

The Sweet Potato (or Sweetpotato):
From Humble Beginnings
to Sweet, Nutritious Endings

by Lynn Kerrigan


Definition of Perfection: A dessert that is creamy sweet, distinctively flavorful, low calorie AND nutritious. Stumped? Consider the sweetpotato.

Not many roots, plants or vegetables can be disguised as desserts except for the sweet potato. It's not only capable of transforming itself into a nutritious dessert it can even decorate your home!

The sweetpotato ranks number 9 (out of 10 power-packed vegetables) for its concentration of vitamins and minerals. (Broccoli is number 1.) It's as versatile a food as you can find —used in main dishes, soups, desserts and even as a dip.

Sweetpotatoes, a complex carbohydrate food, are often thought of as "poor man's food" because they combine nutrition and economy. One baked 3-1/2 ounce serving stocks over 8,800 IU of vitamin A—about twice the recommended daily allowance (RDA). This nutritious root vegetable also serves up a healthy dose of Vitamin C (42 percent of the RDA) as well as calcium, iron, thiamin and beta-carotene an antioxidant believed to reduce the risk of certain cancers. It's a good diet food too—containing only 141 calories. The sweetpotato pie recipe in this column makes a nice (sweet and light) springtime dessert.


Curious Sweetpotato Facts:

Sweet Potatoes  
Sweetpotato is now one word—not two. But if you do an Internet search for sweetpotato recipes use the phrase "sweet potato." Most people have not caught on to the one word usage. The one-word spelling has been adopted in some publications, notably the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, as well as a sister publication, the HortScience. The National Sweetpotato Collaborators Group and the North Carolina Sweetpotato Commission (formerly the North Carolina Yam Commission) now endorse spelling sweetpotato as one word, but many groups still spell it as two words.

A sweetpotato is not a potato.

A sweetpotato is not a yam. A sweetpotato is technically a "storage root." Yams are tubers. Sweetpotatoes are sweet and moist. Yams are dry and starchy. Sweetpotatoes with orange interiors have a high beta-carotene content. Yams have very little. Sweetpotatoes are grown in the United States. Yams are imported to the USA from the Caribbean. The scientific name of sweetpotato is Ipomoea batatas and it's a member of the morning glory family. A yam on the other hand belongs to the Yam plant family.

North Carolina is the "Sweetpotato Capital of the World."

Sweetpotatoes may be baked, boiled, broiled, mashed, stuffed, steamed, sautéed and cooked in the microwave. They can be substituted for Irish potatoes, apples and squash in almost any recipe. They are great raw—use them as a crudite, shredded on greens or julienne for a colorful addition to salads.

Sweet potatoes make attractive houseplants. Place a sweet potato in a jar of water with its narrow end down. Put the jar in a warm, dark place and keep the jar filled with water. New roots will grow and in about 10 days, the stem will grow. As soon as this happens, put the jar in a sunny window. As the vine grows, it can be left to trail or trained to climb.


Sweetpotato (or Sweet Potato) Web Site:

North Carolina Sweet Potatoes


Sweet Potato Recipes


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Lynn Kerrigan, the Culinary Sleuth, is editor and publisher of Food Writer, an industry trade newsletter. She regrets she cannot fulfill recipe requests but welcomes any other mail including comments, tips and suggestions. Contact her at [email-address-removed].

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Copyright © 1998-2001, Lynn Kerrigan. No portion of this article may be reproduced for publication without express, written permission of the author.

This page created May 1999

This page modified February 2007