Sweet potatoes, in my mind, might just be the world’s most perfect food. They’re fun to grow (digging them at the end of a growing season is like finding buried treasure) and they’re top-notch when it comes to nutrient density.
About the nutritional value of sweet potatoes, the website The World’s Healthiest Foods says, “One difficulty in describing the health benefits of sweet potatoes is knowing where to begin. There are a surprising number of nutrient categories responsible for the health benefits of this underappreciated tuber. Among these categories are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and blood sugar-regulating nutrients.”
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, fiber and many other nutrients. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta carotene.
Growing sweet potatoes isn’t complicated if you follow a few key tips. First, sweet potatoes love warm soil. However, that doesn’t mean you can only grow them in hot climates. There are some soil-warming techniques you can use to cultivate them successfully in multiple growing zones.
Curing sweet potatoes is another important step for the home grower. Here are the basics: Immediately after digging them, simply give your sweet potatoes a warm, cozy, somewhat-humid home for a week or two, and they’ll grow a tough, protective skin that will allow you to store them for months! To create a good curing environment, I’ve used a large cooler with a bucket of really hot water in it, and I just change out the bucket of water a couple of times a day (using the buckets of water that have cooled down to water outdoor plants). And the best part about curing and storage: The longer you store your sweet potatoes, the better the flavor of the tubers when you cook them.
Sweet potatoes can be incorporated into numerous delicious recipes. You can add sweet potato chunks to soups, roast them with herbs, add mashed sweet potatoes to baked goods such as biscuits, breads and muffins, add mashed sweet potatoes to whole-grain pancakes … the list goes on.
Sweet Potato Waffles
1/3 cup melted butter, cooled
2 cups mashed or pureed sweet potatoes
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk (or 2 cups buttermilk, or a combination)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup finely ground walnuts or pecans (optional)
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp each ground cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger (optional)
Stir together butter, potatoes, eggs and milk. Sift together dry ingredients and stir into potato mixture. Bake in a hot waffle iron. Serve topped with maple syrup or honey. Makes approximately 5 8-inch waffles.
Sweet Potato Biscuits
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp cold butter
1 cup buttermilk (can use milk)
1 cup mashed or pureed sweet potatoes
1 tbsp honey
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or two knives — the mixture should look like course meal. Mix together the milk, sweet potatoes, and maple syrup or honey. Pour into the flour mixture and stir with a fork until the mixture just comes together. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead, using a light touch, until the dough is fairly smooth. Use a little more flour if the dough is too sticky, remembering that short and gentle kneading will give you the most tender biscuit. Pat the dough out to a thickness of three-quarter to 1 inch. Cut with a 2-inch biscuit cutter. Place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes, or until just golden. Serve hot! Makes approximately 20 biscuits.
Curried Sweet Potato Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 j alapeño, chopped (optional)
2 pounds sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 tsp curry powder
1 cup apple cider
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large soup pot, sauté onion, garlic and jalapeño in olive oil until soft. Add potatoes, vegetable broth and curry powder. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly and puree. Add apple cider, salt and pepper, and stir well. Excellent if served with a dollop of yogurt or a splash of cream swirled in. Serves 4.
Sweet Potato Molasses Pie
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell
3 medium sweet potatoes (approximately 1 lb)
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
Sweetened whipped cream, to garnish (optional)
In a medium saucepan, cook raw sweet potatoes in enough boiling salted water to cover for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender. Drain. Cool slightly and peel. Mash cooked or canned sweet potatoes (you should have 1½ cups). Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine mashed sweet potatoes, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Add eggs and milk; mix well. Pour sweet potato mixture into unbaked pie shell. Cover edge of pie with foil. Bake in 375-degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes more or until a knife, inserted halfway between the center and edge, comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill to store. Serve with sweetened whipped cream, if desired.