Whether you call it a sweet potato or a yam, the vegetable we know is a sweet, delicious, nutritious and edible root from the morning-glory family.
A medium sweet potato counts as a cup of the four- to- five cups of the daily-recommended vegetable group, has more than a day’s worth of vitamin A, 35 percent of the recommended daily amount for vitamin C and 15 percent of the recommended daily amount for fiber.
Native Americans were growing sweet potatoes in the Americas even before Columbus arrived in 1492. Today, North Carolina is the No. 1 producer of sweet potatoes. They are available year-round and are usually harvested in the state from August to November. After a curing process that sweetens the sweet potato, it is ready for market and your dinner table.
When shopping for fresh sweet potatoes, look for ones that are plump, medium-sized, and tapered toward the ends. They should be firm, dry and brightly colored with smooth skins. Avoid sweet potatoes with any sign of decay, as any deterioration will spread rapidly, affecting the taste of the whole potato.
Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dark, dry place like a closet in which the temperature is 55 to 60 degrees. The refrigerator is not an option, as temperatures below 50 degrees will cause them to turn black and lose flavor. It’s best to purchase sweet potatoes in small quantities and use them quickly.
The sweet potato is a versatile vegetable. It can be baked, boiled, roasted, candied or grilled. It can be used in biscuits, breads, muffins, pies, custards, cookies and cakes. Do select a preparation method that limits fat and sugar if you’re watching your waistline or your health.
Add sweet potatoes to your grocery list this week or better yet, check out the availability from a local farmer. Then try these healthy recipes:
— Pear Yam Salad is a fall favorite. The slightly sweet spicy dressing mixed with the toasted pecan flavor makes the yams and pears perfect partners. You will need: 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed; 3 fresh pears; 2 tablespoons of lemon juice; one-fourth cup toasted pecans; a cup of chopped celery; one-third cup of raisins; one-third cup light mayonnaise; a tablespoon of honey; one-half teaspoon of ground ginger; and salt to taste.
In a saucepan, cook yams for eight to 10 minutes in boiling water just until tender. Do not overcook. Drain and set aside to cool.
Core pears and cut into chunks. Toss pears with lemon juice and mix with the cooled yams in a large bowl. Add pecans, celery and raisins, mixing gently. In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, honey, ginger, and salt. Pour the dressing over the yam-pear mixture, mixing gently to coat the salad. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
This recipe, which was found in the Guilford County Cooperative Extension, makes eight servings.
— Another favorite is Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges. To make this recipe, you’ll need: 2 sweet potatoes, peeled; a tablespoon of olive oil; one-half teaspoon of curry powder; one-fourth teaspoon of ground cumin; one-eighth teaspoon of ground cloves; one-half teaspoon of salt; and one-fourth teaspoon of pepper.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, and cut each half into six wedges. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss gently to coat. Place wedges on a baking sheet so they do not overlap. Bake until very tender. This recipe, which was found in Cook Smart-Eat Smart, serves four people.
For other ideas or information, contact Janice Fields, Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276, by email at Janice_Fields@ncsu.edu or by visiting http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu.