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The sweet potato: A near perfect food

Updated on June 13, 2010
Yam
Yam
Sweet Potato
Sweet Potato
Purple Sweet Potatoes
Purple Sweet Potatoes
Yams
Yams
Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes

Low in calories, high in everything else.
If you don't eat sweet potatoes, you're missing out on one of nature's truly perfect foods. Besides being low in calories, they are high in fiber, great for diabetics and people who are carbohydrate sensitive, and packed with vitamins and minerals. Nutritionists have rated them the number one healthiest vegetable. In addition, they are delectable and versatile.

Yam or sweet potato
Most people don't really know the difference between yams and sweet potatoes. All of the root vegetables that are labeled yams in American supermarkets are actually sweet potatoes, cousins to Morning Glories.They come in different textures and colors.

True Yams are gigantic tropical roots with an orange colored flesh, not related to sweet potatoes. They are seldom seen in our grocery stores. They can occasionally be found in the exotic vegetable area of large supermarkets, particularly in neighborhoods with Hispanic populations.

Despite this, many people insist on calling moist, orange-fleshed Sweet Potatoes Yams, reserving the name Sweet Potatoes for the drier, yellow-fleshed varieties. Both are unrelated to regular white potatoes and are much better for you.

Purple-skinned Sweet Potatoes can be found in Okinawa and other similar places. They are made into everything from chips to ice cream. Their pigment offers protection from cancer and other diseases. And, according to researchers, Sweet Potatoes contain a high quality protein, similar to that found in eggs. They are also packed with nutrients, including high levels of carotenoids (especially beta-carotene), copper, vitamin C and E and fiber.

Definitions from the LIbrary of Congress

Yams
Yams are closely related to lilies and grasses. Native to Africa and Asia, yams vary in size from that of a small potato to a record 130 pounds (as of 1999). There are over 600 varieties of yams and 95% of these crops are grown in Africa. Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are starchier and drier.

Sweet Potatoes
The many varieties of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are members of the morning glory family, Convolvulacea. The skin color can range from white to yellow, red, purple or brown. The flesh also ranges in color from white to yellow, orange, or orange-red. Sweet potato varieties are classified as either ‘firm’ or ‘soft’. When cooked, those in the ‘firm’ category remain firm, while ‘soft’ varieties become soft and moist. It is the ‘soft’ varieties that are often labeled as yams in the United States.

Why the confusion?
In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties.

Baked sweet potatoes
Baked sweet potatoes
Twice baked sweet potatoes
Twice baked sweet potatoes
Sweet potato casserole
Sweet potato casserole
Sweet potato soup
Sweet potato soup
Sweet potato pie
Sweet potato pie
Sweet potato bread
Sweet potato bread
Sweet potato fries
Sweet potato fries

Recipes

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the number of medium sized Sweet Potatoes you would like to bake in oven (1 per person). Let bake until soft when lightly squeezed (aproximately 1 hour). Remove from oven and let set for 5-10 minutes. Place one potato on each plate. Make a cut from one end to the other ansqueeze to push slesh up in a mound. Slather with butter (and salt, if desired). Serve immediately, with pork, brown rice, and fresh broccoli. Ymm.

Baked Sweet Potatoes Ala Casserole

3 lb. sweet potatoes, baked until soft
3/4 c. orange juice
2 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 lg. eggs
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmegPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Skin and mash sweet potatoes, add orange juice and eggs. Add butter, cinnamon and nutmeg, beat until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place in buttered casserole.TOPPING:1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter, room temperature

Sweet Potato Soup

  • 2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 small celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
  • 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth (use vegetable broth for vegetarian option)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • The leafy tops of the celery stalks, chopped

1 Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add chopped celery stalks and leek, sauté about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes.

2 Add sweet potatoes, chicken stock, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

3 Remove cinnamon stick and discard. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return to pot.

4 Add half and half and maple syrup and stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool soup slightly. Cover and refrigerate soup and celery leaves separately. Bring soup to simmer before continuing.) Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with celery leaves. Serves 6 to 8.

Sweet Potato Pie

  • 1 pound 3 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cup packed, dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 5 egg yolks
  • Salt
  • 1 (9-inch) deep dish, frozen pie shell
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Bake potatoes in 400 degree oven until soft. Cool, peel and cut into cubes. Mash with potato masher and set aside.

Turn oven down oven to 350 degrees F. Place sweet potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment. Add yogurt, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, yolks, and salt, to taste, and beat until well combined. Pour this batter into the pie shell and place onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle pecans on top and drizzle with maple syrup. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the custard reaches 165 to 180 degrees. Remove from oven and cool. Keep refrigerated after cooling.

Sweet Potato Bread

  • 2 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cups water
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine sugar, water, oil, eggs, and sweet potatoes and mix thoroughly. Add dry ingredients and mix to combine. Add pecans and mix well. Divide between 2 greased loaf pans and bake for 50 minutes. Cool in pan to room temperature.

Comments

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    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 3 years ago from Ohio, USA

      It's kind of ugly. Not the hub, the sweet potato.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i love sweet potatoes. Yam is harder to cook. It took me 2 hours to cook yam. Sweet potatoes just take around 20min or so. Love your recipes. Voted up

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 6 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      You are so right. Thanks for the comment.

    • Sharon McConnell profile image

      Sharon McConnell 6 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona

      Now is the time of year to eat them!

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the comment.

    • hoangkimvietnam profile image

      hoangkimvietnam 7 years ago from Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam

      Excellent. Thank you.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Hey, that's good to know ....about diabetics. Let me know how the soup turns out. I got the recipe from a friend whom I know is a fantastic cook; but I've never tried it. I'm dying to though.

    • Tigermadstanley profile image

      Amanda Davey 8 years ago from Canterbury, Kent, UK

      Thanks for sharing such gorgeous sounding recipes. I shall be sure to try out the soup and the casserole.

      Sweet potatoes are also great for diabetics as they are a low GI food.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Yeah, I love them too. And they do go with so many other foods. Have you tried sweet potato fries? They are to die for!! Thanks for the nice comments

    • jennifer maurer profile image

      Jennifer Maurer 8 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Great hub alek...I also love sweet potatoes and never realized there was such a big difference between them and yams. Interesting. One thing I have discovered (and it may seem odd), is that sweet potatoes go very well with steak. Something about their flavor compliment steak really well. I often grill them with butter and serve with steak....try it sometime, it's delicious!

      I am going to try these recipes as well (especially the casserole!). So good for you too. Nature's little goldmine! Thanks again for a great hub!

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      You're welcome, Jim. Let me know how the recipes turn out.

    • jim10 profile image

      jim10 8 years ago from ma

      I love sweat potatoes. They taste great and are even healthier than regular plain old boring potatoes. I make sweat potato fries whenever I can. They are also great baked and mashed. Baked is great with caramel and marshmallows. Thanks for all of the great recipes.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Dori, Glad you enjoyed the hub. Now, are you going to try one of the recipes?

    • fortunerep profile image

      fortunerep 8 years ago from North Carolina

      What a wonderful hub!! I am now starving! I love sweet potatoes, any way they are prepared.

      dori

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