Sweet potato is a vegetable that seems to be coming into its own recently. Emerging from the shadow of the regular potato, the sweet potato is being grown for its own distinct color and flavor. Many people call them yams, although in truth the two species are completely different.
Growing Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes grow best in full sun and thrive in soil that’s evenly moist and full of organics. You can start a sweet potato vine from a slip, which is a small slice of the vegetable that has been rooted. Most common varieties grow as a vine, but there are also bush varieties that work well in small spaces.
Beauregard is the most popular variety, although the Bush Puerto Rico and the Patriot are two other good choices for the home vegetable garden. Many of the varieties are orange, but you can also find purple and yellow flesh.
Harvest your sweet potatoes when the vine has yellowed and be careful as you dig the tubers out. They grow fairly close to the surface and are best when the skin is unmarred. The sweet potato season runs through the early winter months of November and December.
Nutritional Values of Sweet Potatoes
Nutrients: Value per 1 med tuber, baked (77 g)
Energy / Calories 95 Kcal
Protein 1.76 G
Fat (total) 0.08 G
Fiber 3.14 G
Sugar (total) 16.34 G
Vitamin C 17.06 Mg
Vitamin A 13108 IU
Calcium 22 Mg
Magnesium 19 Mg
Potassium 306 Mg
Beta Carotene 7864 Mcg
Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. This carotenoid is highly beneficial to lung health and an important way to fight off lung cancer in smokers and those exposed to second hand smoke. Along with the vitamin A, sweet potatoes are also a great source of vitamin C. These two nutrients have powerful antioxidant capabilities in your body, attacking free radicals and improving your overall health. Sweet potatoes can also help to reduce inflammation present with arthritis and asthma.
Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6. This vitamin is helpful in reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of potassium and fiber, both good for overall health.
Cooking with Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are extremely versatile on your menu, providing a tasty side dish or a hearty lunch. A traditional dish on Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner tables, sweet potatoes can be enjoyed all year round in a wide variety of dishes.
Store your harvested sweet potatoes with the skin on in a dark, cool place. Once you’ve removed the peel, it’s best to cook this vegetable right away.
Aim to consume at least three full sweet potatoes each week, which should be simple given the culinary options this vegetable delivers.
Some simple and unique ways to add sweet potatoes to your diet are:
Sweet Potato Fries – Coat wedges of sweet potato with olive oil and paprika, then bake until slightly crisp. A delicious alternative to French fries.
Smoothie With a Twist – Puree baked sweet potato with a banana, adding maple syrup and cinnamon to taste.
Baked Goods – Sweet potato is an excellent base for muffins, pies, breads and other desserts. Nearly interchangeable with cooked pumpkin in baking.
Baking Sweet Potatoes – Bake sweet potatoes for a side dish at lunch or dinner. They also travel very well, making them perfect for office or school lunches and even picnics.
Concerns and Cautions of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes contain oxalates, which could be harmful to those suffering from untreated gall bladder and kidney diseases. Consult with your doctor before eating this vegetable if this may be an issue.
Homegrown, organic sweet potatoes can be eaten whole, including the skin. Common store bought varieties should be peeled though, to prevent the consumption of chemicals.
Want to learn more on the health benefits of sweet potatoes?
Check out these references:
Watch Your Garden Grow: Sweet Potato from University of Illinois Extension
Purple Sweet Potato Means Increased Amount Of Anti-Cancer Components from Science Daily