There have been several different publications that I have seen recently that have recipes for sweet potatoes and that gave me the idea for this article. In our part off the country, we use the terms ‘yam’ and ‘sweet potato’ interchangeably. Did you know this is incorrect? Neither did I!
In the United States, certain varieties of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are incorrectly called yams. (A true yam is a starchy root vegetables that grows in the Caribbean. It is rough and scaly and not even related to the sweet potato).
The yam belong to the genus (Dioscorea) of the family Discoreaceas, called the yam family. There are over 600 known species of true yams and only four of these species are native to the United States.
The sweet potato is among he most important of the tropical root crops. They are baked, boiled or fried. Some are used for soup and some are dried and ground into meal. They are high in Beta-Carotene and vitamins E and C. A 2/3 cup serving gives you 100% of the URSDA for Vitamin E. They are also a good source of fiber when eaten with the skin on and also offer other essential nutrients such as: potassium, iron and Vitamin B6.
The sweet potato is a perennial belonging to the morning-glory family and is chiefly cultivated for its edible roots. The flowers resemble those of the morning-glory and the tuberous roots are usually several inches long. The flesh of the sweet potato may be white, yellow or orange. Here in the United States, the leading producers of sweet potatoes are Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
Sweet potatoes were introduced into Spain from the West Indies in 1526 and gradually made its way to other parts of Europe. It is generally believed to have first been grown in the U.S. around 1647. Actually, history tells us that the Native Americans were already growing them when Columbus arrived in 1492. The ship’s log indicated that he took some Sweet Potatoes back to Europe with him.
Sweet potatoes require a long, warm growing season. In back issues of our paper, while doing research in old papers, most generally in the 1936/1937 era, I have found several references to someone combing by the office and bringing “this editor” (KK’s grandfather), a sack of locally grown sweet potatoes.
As with many other vegetables and fruits, there are probably as many recipes for cooking sweet potatoes as there are cooks to cook! They lend themselves to many recipes. Some folks have never eaten them any except candied with marshmallows on top, at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
My favorite way to eat them is baked, split open, and served with butter, salt and pepper on them. My sister-in-law taught us to bake them, split them open and then use butter, cinnamon and brown sugar on top, but if I do them this way, I just use butter and a cinnamon/sugar mixture on top. Very tasty!
To bake sweet potatoes, you will need to scrub them clean and then use a fork to prick the skins thoroughly. and bake at 400º F until they’re done. (This may take 40 to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the potato). Be sure to prick the skins thoroughly to keep the potato from exploding while baking. You would not believe how many minute particles of potato will be sticking to your oven if that happens. I found out the hard way! They can also be baked in your microwave, scrub thoroughly, prick them thoroughly and bake on high for three or four minutes, depending on the size of the potato.
My grandmother used to peel and then cut fresh sweet potatoes from the garden into crosswise slices about 3/4 to 1-inch thick and then fry them in some butter until brown, then turn over and brown the other side. If they are not quite done when brown, tightly cover and steam a few minutes until tender. They are really delicious this way.
Many people prefer sweet potato pie to pumpkin pie…I am not really craze about either one, it’s a texture thing with me.
Sweet Potato Pie
1¼ cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 small package French vanilla instant pudding mix
¾ cup evaporated milk (i.e. Pet, Carnation, store brand), (NOT sweetened condensed milk)
2 large eggs at room temperature
6 Tbs. butter
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
Preheat oven to 475ºF.
Combine all ingredients, (except pie shell) in a large bowl and beat at medium speed until well blended. Spread evenly into unbaked pie shell. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, reduce temperature to 350ºF and bake for 40 minutes longer or until set. Cool before serving. Serves 8.
The following recipe for sweet potatoes is what my family prefers for Thanksgiving, we’ve enjoyed it for many years and most of them request it!
Sweet Potatoes with Apples
5 sweet potatoes (or use 2 or 3 cans of sweet potatoes)
5 cooking apples
¼ to ½ cup water
Preheat oven to 359ºf. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch thick slices and set aside. Peel core and slice apples into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place a layer of potatoes into a Dutch oven or stockpot, top with a layer of apples, sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over all, repeat layers finishing with apples. Melt butter and pour over apples, pour water into pot, put in oven and bake 1 hour or until potatoes are done or about 1/2 hour if you used canned sweet potatoes. (I have also, when oven space was tight cooked this on top of the stove!).