What’s in Season: Sweet Potatoes

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What’s in Season: Sweet Potatoes

By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Is it any wonder Southerners are partial to sweet potatoes? The warm moist climate and sandy soil the South provides are perfect growing conditions for sweet potatoes. In most parts of the US, sweet potatoes make an annual appearance on the Thanksgiving table, but Southerners use this tasty tuber year-round in everything from soups, casseroles, and pies to biscuits and bread.

North Carolina is the sweet potato capital of the world, with Louisiana, Mississippi, and California following closely behind. Each October, North Carolina and Louisiana pay homage to the sweet potato – with North Carolina’s Sweet Potato Festival and Louisiana’s Yambilee Festival.

Because of their many health benefits, sweet potatoes are often referred to as nature’s health food.  They are loaded with Vitamin C and beta-carotene – two powerful antioxidants that work to eliminate free radicals (which damage cells) in the body. High in fiber, fat and cholesterol-free, sweet potatoes are simply one of the most nutritious vegetables around!

History:
American Indians, whose name for sweet potatoes is batatas, were growing them in their gardens (in Louisiana) as far back as the 1500’s. They originated in Mexico, Central, and South America, as well as the West Indies. Of the many foods Christopher Columbus brought back to Spain after his first voyage to the West Indies, sweet potatoes were his most prized possession. From there, Spain began to cultivate them and Portuguese explorers brought them to Africa, India, and southern Asia, where sweet potatoes continue to be a main dietary staple.
 
One common misconception is that sweet potatoes and yams are one in the same. Actually, they are not related at all! Sweet Potatoes are the root of a vine in the morning glory family and yams belong to the lily family. Yams are native to Africa. They are starchy and not very sweet and can grow very large – with some weighing up to 100 pounds! The African words nyami, and njam, which means “to eat” is what probably brought the two vegetables together. Slaves in the American South called the sweet potato nyamis, a name that they knew from their homeland because of its similarity to the yam.

Selecting:
Select firm, fairly evenly-shaped sweet potatoes with even skin coloration. Choose sweet potatoes with a deep orange color for the best nutrition value. Avoid Sweet Potatoes with any soft brown spots, as these are signs of decay.

Storing:
Do not store sweet potatoes in the refrigerator as the cold temperature negatively alters their flavor. Instead, store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry container. For the best flavor and freshness, use your Sweet Potatoes within a week or two after buying them.

Yield:
2 medium fresh, or 2 – 3 canned, will yield about 1 1/4 cups cooked and mashed
3 medium, or a 1 pound can will yield about 2 cups cooked and mashed
4 medium or a 3-quart can will yield about 2 1/2 cups cooked and mashed

Substitutions:
Butternut squash
Acorn Squash
Pumpkin
Parsnips

Most Common Varieties:

Covington: This popular supermarket variety has a heavy, larger than average size. It has rose-colored skin and a succulent orange flesh.

Evangeline: Evangeline is prized for its beautiful rosy skin and almost burnt orange flesh that is sweet and juicy. The size is smaller than others. This variety contains an abundance of sucrose, so it’s a good choice for baking and microwaving.

Puerto Rican: Puerto Rican has a smooth, light texture and rich sweet potato flavor. The skin is copper-colored and the flesh is red-orange. The Puerto Rican’s size, about 4 inches long, is about average for a sweet potato.

Sweet potatoes are a part of our Thanksgiving tradition, but now that you know how nutritious they are, be sure to add them to your meals throughout the year!

So from our kitchen to yours, Paula shares some of her best sweet tater dishes for you to enjoy. 

Sweet Southern Spud Recipes:
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Sweet Potato Balls
Bobby’s Lighter Sweet Potato Bake
Old-Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie
Aunt Peggy’s Sweet Potato Souffle
Sweet Potato Chili Cakes with Cilantro Lime Sauce

Read More From What's in Season.

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Reader Comments:

54321

Paula I was so happy to find this website. I love you and all your recipes!! I your amazing you have no idea how much you have effected my life gods blessings to you!!!

By Louisa flugun on November 26, 2013

54321

I have been looking through books and cannot find a good recipe on Cheddar Cheese Grits Could you send me a good recipe?

By Carolyn Parker on November 15, 2013

54321

LOve all that you do Paula and sure do miss you on T.V. Stopped food net work when they did you so dirty. I do watch your boys. They are great also. Wish all of your fans could see Bobby's new bride. She is one more lucky girl. By the way-just want to say how great you look. Wish you could tell me how to lose weight. I am not fat just a big tummy. Keep smiling--we all love you.

By LindaFullbright on November 15, 2013

54321

I love your recipes Paula. When I watched your shows I always felt like I was there with you.

By Laura Duran on November 14, 2013

54321

I Love you Paula Deen!! I sure wish someone would publish your New Testament cookbook. I would love to have some of those lighten up recipes. I feel they are only hurting themselves by not publishing it. What's this world coming to!!

By Yvonne on November 14, 2013

54321

Paula, You are the best,LOVE your recipes.....was so happy to hear everything turned out ok for you....so sad, people!!!!!!!!!....you will survive and come out better than ever Love you Paula

By Sandra on November 10, 2013

54321

PAULA I AM SO LIKE U I LOVE POTATOES BUT ESP. SWEET PTOTATOES. WELL IN A FEW DAYS I WILL BE 70. NOV. 11, NOT SURE WHAT COMFORT FOODS I WILL BE ENJOYING. BUT U CAN BET THERE WILL BE SWEET PTOTATOES IN THERE SOMEWHERE. HAVE A WONDERFUL THANKSGIVING, MY HUBBY AND I ARE OFF TO LANCASTER,PA. FOR THAT HOLIDAY AND TAKE IN THE HUGE SHOW"MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS, AT THE SOUND AND SIGHT THEATRE, THEY HAVE ONE IN BRANSON, MO. SOON IT WILL BE TIME TO GET READY FOR CHRISTMAS. WISHING U AND YOUR LOVEDONES AND THOSE PRECIOUS GRANDBABIES THE BEST TIME EVER. HOPEFULLY IN 2014 WE WILL SEE U BACK ON OUR TV;S. HUGS FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS. GOBBLE GOBBLE ROSIE

By R.HERDMAN on November 08, 2013

54321

i love sweet potatoes, you fry them up, and make a dip from creamcheese and lemon....you have a moment

By benita wheeler on December 06, 2011

54321

I am desperate for your help! In the November-December 2006 issue of your magazine there was a recipe for a sweet potato side dish that my family really likes. I believe it may have been on page 57. (I still have page 56 with recipes for Baked Hen and Dressing.) I would really appreciate your help!!!!!!!!!!

By Deann Mills on November 22, 2011

54321

Thanks for the information.

By Elizabeth Skoglund on November 16, 2011

54321

We visited your buffet at the Horseshoe Casino in Indiana and we enjoyed our dinner very much. We had sweet potato that had the skin removed and baked, if there a receipe that we can get, it was truly amazing. Everything we ate was amazing. Thank you Jan Eberhart we are looking forward to dining there again next year.

By Jan Eberhart on November 16, 2011

i felt your article was very informative. this gave me a few new ideas for thanksgiving dinner.we sometims get bored with the same old recipes. a new twist on some of our old favorites is a welcome addition.    thank you soooo much

By pat eaton on November 02, 2010

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