DIFFERENT FROM THE YAM AND DISTINCT FROM A POTATO, THE SWEET POTATO IS A GLOBALLY POPULAR ROOT VEGETABLE
Sweet potato has become known as the supposedly healthy option to potato. It’s popularity has grown and grown to the point that in most healthy food shops something ‘sweet potato’ will be found. Known as Sweet Potato in most english speaking countries or sometimes called Yam in the US can lead to confusion with the genuine Yam (Genus Dioscorea.) Despite the name its distantly related to the potato. Throughout the spanish world it is called batata.
See our article on the difference between sweet potato and yams.
Ipomoea batatas is actually a herbaceous perennial vine with an edible root and leaves. Its full of starch which makes it an excellent addition to any meal. With a particularly smooth skin the sweet potato can come in a variety of colours. While the UK are more familiar with the orange to yellow type, in the Americas a purple variety is often more common. Inside a sweet potato the flesh is more moist and less sweet in white/yellow varieties compared to darker varieties.
THE FLAVOUR PROFILE
Earthy, creamy and slightly sweet is the way to describe the Sweet Potatoes flavour profile. Its generally a lot tougher than a potato when raw. In fact to cut open a raw sweet potato involves considerable effort. Not to disimilar to having force open a tough pumpkin or cassava root. When cooked it becomes tender, almost melt in the mouth, starchy and sweet. Depending on the variety the amount of creaminess will vary. Some can become so creamy that they resemble a well cooked butternut squash.
SCIENCE OF SWEET POTATO
Amongst all the root vegetables the sweet potato is one of the most nutritious. Its rich in carbohydrates, dietary fibre, beta carotene, Vitamin C and B6. Pink, Yellow and green varieties are particularly high in carotene.
GETTING IT READY TO EAT
When buying sweet potatoes look for ones that have a smooth skin and small to medium in size. Often if it has cuts and blemishes the underlying flesh will be damaged or rotten.
KEEPING IT FRESH?
Sweet potatoes should be treated the same way as potatoes. Kept away from direct sunlight and in a cool location. Sweet potatoes can keep for a similar shelf life as the potato (a few weeks).
HOW DO WE USE IT?
To prepare sweet potato it needs to have the skin cleaned with a brush and water. Usually it cooked in boiling water or steamed (having been cut into slices). Our preference is to roast sliced sweet potato with some chicken, thyme and lots of olive oil.
The prevalence of sweet potato around the world is huge. Its extremely popular in the pacific regions, the americas and Africa. It is cultivated throughout these regions as well parts of Europe.
In Africa sweet potato with peanut sauce is very popular particularly in Uganda. Its also a common street food in Egypt. Many cultures enjoy sweet potato as a snack including in China and Japan. It features in tempura (food deep fried in a light batter) as well as on pizzas in the Korean peninsula. In Malaysia and Singapore it is often paired with coconut milk and yam. In the US sweet potato chips have become fashionable as well as using sweet potato with ceviche in Peruvian cuisine.
In the americas sweet potato as a dessert is really popular. In Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, ‘dulce de batata’ in english sweet potato jelly is consumed a lot.
Not only can the root be eaten also the young leaves and shoots.
FLAVOUR COMBINATION SUGGESTIONS
As a nutritious starch, it goes well with a lot of other ingredients. Sweet creamy nutty flavours like honey, cassava, peanut, chestnut, sago and a variety of squash (pumpkins) go really well with sweet potato. In many cultures it is combined with creamy ingredients like coconut milk, cream shrimp and jackfruit. Sharing similar qualities to the potato it crisps very well so can be used as a dip with a huge range of ingredients as well as being roasted with herbs like rosemary and thyme along with garlic, olive oil and chili pepper.
- Buy small to medium sized Sweet Potatoes
- Don’t confuse it with the true yam or butternut squash
- Try it as an alternative to potato chips