Sweet Potatoes: Everything You Need to Know
Sweet potatoes: everything you need to know. Sweet potatoes are one of those superfoods that’s often under-appreciated. That’s because many of us wait until Thanksgiving and Christmas to put them on our dinner plates.
But they are a great potato for french fries, pierogies (dumplings), and as a baked potato that’s been topped with melting marshmallows. Or you can add some butter with cinnamon and sugar. Plain sweet potatoes work well, too.
They also happen to be very good for you, with several health benefits that you may not know about. Here’s more about sweet potatoes and everything you need to know about them. I wrote this post way back in 2014: Yams Versus Sweet Potatoes
Basic Info of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are a starchy edible root that come from the dicotyledonous plant. It’s especially sweet in flavor, and even the leaves and shoots can be eaten as well.
They are believed to have originated in Central and South America and have been domesticated for thousands of years.
It is believed that they began to travel across the Pacific by European explorers, or by endogenous peoples traveling from island to island.
Fun Facts on Sweet Potatoes
A lot of people believe that a sweet potato and a yam are the same things, but in all honesty that isn’t the case. A true yam is an edible root that comes from the Dioscorea genus and is usually imported to America from the Caribbean.
Though mostly enjoyed around the holidays, the month of February is dedicated as National Sweet Potato Month.
North Carolina produces more sweet potatoes than any other state in the United States, so it’s no wonder the sweet potato is the state’s official vegetable. If you decide you want to peel them: Potato Peeler
Sweet potatoes come in a variety of different colors besides orange, ranging from white, yellow, red, and …purple. Each one contains different levels of phytonutrients and phytochemicals that provide you with a number of health benefits.
With over 400 different varieties, here’s a look at some of the most common varieties.
The stokes purple sweet potato has a skin and flesh that are both purple, and that color is maintained even after it’s been cooked. People use them to make fries, chips, and even pies. Your kids will be especially fascinated with this variety.
This Centennial variety has a dark orange interior along with a deep-red exterior. You’ll notice that it has a softer texture than many other varieties.
The oriental sweet potato has a pinkish or purple skin and a white flesh on the inside. It has a fantastic sweet flavor, some saying that it tastes like chestnut. It’s great to use for baking, grilling, or steaming.
Bunch Porto Ricos (Bush or Vineless)
This sweet potato variety has a copper skin and a flesh that’s more red. It also makes for a great baking potato.
This variety produces a high-yield, great-tasting sweet potato. It’s a deep red, almost purple skin color, with deep orange flesh.
Sweet potatoes are a superfood that comes highly nutritious, especially the purple and orange variety. However, if you are on a low-carb diet, you’ll only be able to eat them in moderation because of the carbs that are in them.
They contain a whopping 769% of your daily value of vitamin A in a single cup, and over 79% of your daily value of vitamin C. They’re a great source of fiber, vitamin B6, manganese, potassium, pantothenic acid, copper, and niacin.
Supports Healthy Vision
Sweet potatoes contain rich amounts of what is called beta-carotene. This antioxidant provides you with a number of vision benefits.
With just one single cup of sweet potatoes, there’s over 7 times more the amount of beta-carotene in them than what we need each day.
Our bodies convert this into vitamin A, which goes on to produce light-detecting receptors in our eyes.
Supports Our Immune Systems
Again, the compound beta-carotene provides our bodies with the vitamin A that it needs in order to promote a healthy immune system. It’s known to help to create and maintain a healthy mucous lining that’s on the walls of our gut.
What does our gut have to do with our immune systems, you might ask? Our gut plays a huge role in whether our immune systems stay healthy because that is where our bodies are exposed to pathogens that can cause certain types of diseases.
Promotes Gut Health
Promoting gut health may have already been mentioned, but let’s take a closer look at this benefit that sweet potatoes have.
The antioxidants and fiber that are found in sweet potatoes can help your digestive tract and soften your stool. Fiber-rich foods (like sweet potatoes) not only provide you with regularity but are also believed to lower the risk of colon cancer
Supports Brain Function
There is evidence that supports the idea that eating purple sweet potatoes may support healthy brain function.
That’s because they contain anthocyanins, that in turn, helps our brains against inflammation, as well as preventing any free radical damage.
It’s also been found that foods that contain higher levels of antioxidants may lower the risk of dementia.
Studies done with mice have resulted in improved memory and learning skills. More studies need to be done on humans to see if they have the same effects.
Contains Anti-Cancer Properties
The antioxidant anthocyanin that’s found in purple sweet potatoes, may help to protect and slow the growth of several types of cancer. There have been test tube studies done on stomach, breast, bladder, and colon cancer, where improvement was shown.
Storing Sweet Potatoes
The best way to store sweet potatoes is by finding a cool and dry area to put them. A basement or a root cellar are two options that are away from any heat sources.
Don’t put sweet potatoes in the refrigerator because the centers will harden and their taste may become compromised. Sweet potatoes can be stored for around 1 month in the cool dry place, and about 2 weeks at room temperature.
It’s probably safe to say that most of us only enjoy this superfood closer to the holidays, but with all of the nutrition that comes packed within them, we may need to revisit eating them more often.
Sweet potatoes provide us with healthier eyes and immune systems, proper brain function, along with anti-cancer properties that can slow the growth of cancer cells.
Here’s a last-minute list of recipes that pertain to sweet potatoes and the many ways in which you can enjoy them. How do you most often go about cooking and serving them?
How did you like reading about sweet potatoes: everything you need to know? Please keep prepping, we must. May God bless this world, Linda
Copyright Images: Sweet Potatoes Deposit photos_40987769_s-2019, Sweet Potatoes in a basket Deposit photos_157656248_s-2019
18 thoughts on “Sweet Potatoes: Everything You Need to Know”
I was wondering about the leaves being edible – a neighbor said they were but I don’t necessarily trust her judgement!! So, now that you have said they are, I may just try growing some on my balcony!! NOT! apparently most varieties take quite a bit of room to grow! But if I ever have the room to grow potatoes of any kind, I’ll try them.
Hi Leanne, you can cook the leaves like spinach or chop in a salad. Yes, they take up a lot of room. The interesting thing is regular potato leaves are poisonous. Interesting, huh? Stay safe! Linda
That makes sense that regular potatoes and sweet potatoes are different species so wouldn’t have the same usage!
Very interesting and important information on a superfood.
Must be eaten in all seasons.
Hi Jose, thank you for your kind words. I’m hoping to get people excited to eat vegetables more often. Linda
Very good idea.
Can you can sweet potatoes? If so where do I find out how. Very very new to canning. Have only done jelly 1 time.
Hi Angela, yes you can “pressure can” sweet potatoes in chunks or whole. Do not puree or mash, it is not safe to can. You will need a pressure canner. I highly recommend investing in this book so you can safely can your food. https://amzn.to/3fJkaMu Please do not look at YouTubes for canning unless the person follows USDA Guidelines. Linda
Thank you so much. I really like baked sweet potatoes but I was given a whole bunch and there is no way I can eat them all before they will go bad.
Hi Angela, oh dang, it’s hard when you have something you love to eat. You can dehydrate them. Linda
They actually can grow quite well even as far north as I am (New Hampshire), but it takes a little planning. I use a 4×8 foot raised bed. I water it well, then cover with clear (not black) plastic, tucked well into the sides. In late May or early June, I cut an X in the middle of each square foot, poke my finger down into the soil, and put the sweet potato slip in the hole. A small stone is set next to each X–this weighs down the plastic, so when it rains (or you water it) the water runs into the X. The plastic heats the soil, which the sweets love but most weeds don’t. I collect the sweet potatoes as soon as frost threatens (it’s OK if the vines do get frosted, but if they do you have to dig the potatoes the very next day, or the rot will get them too!)
Then they do have to be hardened off or cured. As with regular potatoes, just brush them off, don’t wash them. *Don’t* let them get cold. I actually set the boxes of newly-dug sweet potatoes next to various hot-air registers in the house; I read about someone else putting them in their car in the sun! After a few days, they can be stored. I actually wouldn’t use a basement–it’s a little too cool for sweets. Normally I put the boxes under a bed! They’ll last well into spring that way. (Caution, store-bought sweet potatoes often have been kept cold at some point, so they won’t store at all well.)
Despite the name “sweet,” they are much better tolerated by my diabetic husband than regular potatoes, especially white ones!
Hi Rhonda, great tips on how to grow, harden off and store them. I love sweet potatoes! I’m glad your diabetic husband can eat them. Stay well, Linda
Sweet potatoes are a great crop to grow! I’ve had them in washtub sized containers…. just keep stuffing the vine back into the container. Each vine can produce several sweet potatoes.
I also have put them in a raised bed, a hugelculture bed, or even had several vines in a deep kiddie wading pool… that last one I had several vines get in the yard and root, so for the past 2 years there are sweet potato volunteers running around the edges of a container garden section.
Leaves are edible. Had added to crockpot surprise before, am thinking of trying in a mixed greens salad this spring.
I also feed them as a treat to our goats, horse and chickens. The entire plant, from vine to potato are favorite foods for our hardworking critters!
Hi BDN, oh my gosh I love all the ways you have grown sweet potatoes!!! I LOVE it! Last year was my first year to grow them and they were so easy to grow! I just Mark liked to eat them. He will eat anything but sweet potatoes and summer squash! So I can’t complain, he east everything else we cook together. Great comment, Linda
I have a sweet potato sprouting in my kitchen window waiting to be set out in my garden. I just
took a regular sweet potato,, stuck some tooth picks I it put it in a jar filled with water and let it go.
It will root and the leaves will come out. It is all ready to plant. My grandma use to do it this way
all the time? I love to watch it take root and the leaves comes out and vine out.
Hi June, I want to try sprouting one now!! Oh my gosh, why didn’t I think of that! I grew up with avocado seeds with toothpicks in a glass of water. I can’t remember what we did with those. LOL! Happy Thursday! Linda
I used to turn my nose to the smell of sweet potatoes. They had a strong scent to me when I was younger. Then I had them with marsh mellows and butter….. ahhh, so good.
I’ve come to like them. They go well with callabasa, or regular pumpkin. They help add a thickness to soups or stews or casserole dishes and they’re actually healthy for dogs.
I’ve had them in the form of french fries at the Outback Steakhouse. They were okay, but could have been better…. a tad bit sweeter, but it’s a chain restaurant and maybe they didn’t pick the best sweet potatoes.
Hi Frank, I need fry sauce for french fries! LOL! White potatoes or sweet potatoes I like fry sauce! Great reminder for dogs, I add them to my homemade dog food for my two puppies. Life is so good! Linda