Although not actually part of the potato family, sweet potatoes have become one of America’s favorite tuber vegetables. With an all-time high in 2017 at 8 pounds per capita. Not only are they so popular in the modern world, but they were also so popular in old times that George Washington grew them in his back yard, and in world war 1, people used starch from sweet potatoes to make flour in order to stretch wheat flour. Although this was more due to an abundance of food at the time.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Solanales
- Family: Convolvulaceae
- Genus: Ipomoea
- Species: I. Batatas
- Binomial name: Ipomoea batatas
Sweet Potatoes Trivia
- The sweet potato is the official state vegetable of North Carolina
- February is sweet potato month.
- Sweet potatoes can range from white, brown to yellow and even purple.
- Tuber: Enlarged structures in some plant species used as storage organs for nutrients. They are used for the plant’s perennation, to provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing season, and as a means of asexual reproduction.
- Per Capita: a unit of mesurement for each person; in relation to people taken individually.
- Hundredweight(cwt): a unit of weight equal to 100 lb
- Domestication: the process whereby wild plants have been evolved into crop plants through artificial selection.
- Yams: Yam is the common name for some plant species in the genus Dioscorea (family Dioscoreaceae) that form edible tubers.
- Yucca: a long and tapered, with a firm, homogeneous flesh encased in a detachable rind, about 1 mm thick, rough and brown on the outside.
- beta carotene: a red-orange pigment found in plants and fruits, especially carrots and colorful vegetables.
Sweet Potatoes Buying Guide
Your best bet, when buying sweet potatoes, is to choose one small to medium size, it may be tempting to go for bigger ones, but smaller ones tend to be sweeter, creamier, with better overall taste and texture. Go for ones that are firm to the touch with smooth outer skin.
Sweet Potatoes Production & Farming in Texas
Sweet potatoes were first cultivated in Texas by the Spanish and later adopted by the Anglo-American settlers. The season begins, in Texas in April and May through to June, harvesting takes place in August through October. Throughout the 20s and 30s, sweet potatoes were the leading vegetable crop in the state and often ranked second in production behind Georgia.
Texan sweet potatoes account for around 10% of the US market, yields were at 492,888 cwt per year between 1990 to 2007.
Sweet potatoes are not swollen stems, which is the case of potatoes. Sweet potatoes are what’s known as a tuberous root, and they grow multiple potatoes per plant. The name sweet potato wasn’t even a term for it until the 1740s by American colonists in order to distinguish them from white potatoes.
The Sweet potato market has grown an average of 6.1% per season with a record-high 31.54 million hundredweight produced in 2016. Value of $705.6 million. Following a record-high sweet potato production year in 2017, Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina’s sweet potato growing region in September of 2018, contributing to the largest single-year U.S. production fall in 48 years.
Although they score on the lower end for residue, commercial sweet potatoes are sprayed with 19 pesticides and herbicides.
Sweet potato is a plant native to America, found there by Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage. It’s likely that him and his shipmates came across them on the various island of the West Indes on earlier voyages, but was not recorded till the fourth. Evidence of domestication also dates back 5000 years to Central and South America. Modern species, I. batatas, were domesticated between the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico and the mouth of the Orinoco River in Venezuela.
Sweet potatoes were also grown in Polynesia before western exploration. Seed was spread through vine cutting rather than planting.
After harvesting the sweet potatoes are placed into crates and stored in a 58°F cooler until an order comes through for amount and size. After the order is placed the potatoes are dumped into sanitized water to be washed, followed by a propane-powered dryer to make sure no moisture remains.
Afterward, they are handled by hand removing any excess parts. They are then placed in boxes based on grade and size. The boxes are then weighed to meet customer specifications and shipped.
Enjoying Sweet Potatoes
The sweet potato tuber is long, taped and orange. They come in shades of white, violet, purple, and brown. The white and pale yellow ones tend to not be as sweet.
In the US, sweet potatoes are a beacon of the thanksgiving holiday, often referred to as ‘yams’. Although yams and sweet potatoes are different. Yams are in fact closer in taste ad texture to yucca. The bottom line is yams are dryer and starchier than sweet potatoes. Although grocery stores in America advertise orange flesh sweet and ‘yams’ the USDA requires them to say they’re in reality sweet potatoes, although not all do.
Sweet potato greens are also edible and have gained popularity by 42% since 2000.
Sweet potatoes should not be refrigerated. The cold air will expose it to moisture and create a hard, unpleasant texture and taste. Instead store them in a cool, dry, dark and well-ventilated place. Like a pantry or a basement. Like this, they’ll hold for about 2 weeks. As they go bad they will begin to shrivel and go soft.
You should wash any fresh vegetables before eating. Sweet potatoes are no exception. Run them under cold water and rub lightly with your fingers to remove dirt and impurities. No need to peel them unless you’re mashing them.
Sweet potatoes can be hard to cut, so make sure your knife is very sharp to avoid nasty accidents.
How you cut them depends on how you cook them. You can wedge them, make medallions, dice them, cube them, spiralize, etc. Possibilities range far from boiling and roasting. Think sweet potato fries or sweet potato pie.
Due to their orange color, it should be clear that sweet potatoes are a great source of beta carotene. But other essential vitamins and minerals make up the tuber: potassium, fiber, vitamins A & C, etc.
- Medium-sized sweet potato boiled without skin contains 27g of carbs – starches make up 53% of carb content.
- Simple sugars such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose, compromise 32% of carb content
- Have a medium to high glycemic index (44-96 GI)
- A medium piece has 3.8 grams
- 15-23% soluble fibers in form of pectin and 77-85% insoluble in the form of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin
- Improved gut health
- A medium potato has around 2g protein
- Contain sporamins, unique proteins that account for more than 80% of their total protein count
- The sporamins are produced to facilitate healing whenever the plant is subjected to physical damage.
- Despite being low in protein it is an important source of it in the third world
- Vitamins & Minerals:
- Pro-Vitamin A: beta-carotene which the body converts. Just 100g provides the recommended daily intake
- Vitamin C: An antioxidant that decreases the duration of a common cold and improves skin health
- Potassium: Important for blood pressure control and may decrease risk of heart disease.
- Manganese: trace mineral important for growth, development and metabolism
- Vitamin B6: Important role in converting food into energy
- Vitamin B5: also known as prnothenic acid, found to some extent in all food
- Vitamin E: Powerful, fat-soluable, antioxidant may help protect may help protect you body against oxidative damage
- Others include beta carotene : an antioxidant that your body converts into vitamin a.
- Chlorogenic acid: is most abundant polyphenol antioxidant in sweet potatoes.
- Anthocyanin: mainly found in purple sweet potatoes are rich in anthocyanins, which possess strong antioxidant properties.
When Are Sweet Potatoes in Season in Texas?
To find out when Sweet Potatoes are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.