The sweet potato, a starchy, sweet-tasting tuberous root, is an important root vegetable with more than 1000 species. Although the young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens, the long, tapered root with smooth skin and a wide range of colors from shades of red, purple, brown and white, provide an excellent source of carbohydrates and vitamins. The sweet potato is only distantly related to the potato and is commonly called a yam in parts of North America, although they are only very distantly related to the other plant widely known as yams which are native to Africa and Asia.
This plant is an herbaceous perennial vine, bearing heart-shaped leaves and medium-sized flowers related to morning glories. The edible tuberous root is long and tapered with smooth skin and flesh whose color ranges between red, purple, brown, yellow and white.
- Candied sweet potatoes are a side dish consisting mainly of sweet potatoes prepared with brown sugar, marshmallows, maple syrup, molasses, or other sweet ingredients. Often served on Thanksgiving, this dish represents traditional American cooking and of that prepared with the indigenous peoples of the Americas when settlers first arrived.
- Sweet potato pie is also a traditional favorite dish in southern U.S. cuisine.
- Baked sweet potatoes are sometimes offered in restaurants as an alternative to baked potatoes. They are often topped with brown sugar and butter. In Dominican Republic sweet potato is enjoyed for breakfast. In China sweet potatoes are often baked in a large iron drum and sold as street food during winter. In a similar manner, in Invisible Man, the classic novel by award-winning author, Ralph Ellison, the nameless protagonist finds himself in Harlem and buys a roasted sweet potato from a street vendor and alludes to the words of the Apostle Paul, humorously remarking, “I yam what I yam.”
- Sweet potato fries or chips, another common preparation, are made by julienning and deep frying sweet potatoes, in the fashion of French fried potatoes.
- Sweet potato butter can be cooked into a gourmet spread.
- Sweet potato soufflé, a kind of sweet potato pie without the crust, is often served with a topping of chopped nuts, sugar, flour and spices.
In addition to being Sweet Potato Month, February is also Black History Month which recognizes the achievements of notable African Americans, such as George Washington Carver, who developed hundreds of uses for both the peanut and sweet potato.
Click here to learn more about the celebrated Black botanist, Dr. George Washington Carver and view a slideshow tribute.
Here is a list of articles related to Black History Month: