Super-nutritious sweet potatoes can be prepared just like white potatoes—bake, grill, microwave, mash or fry.
In many parts of the United States, sweet potatoes are only served
at holiday time, and even then, smothered with marshmallows. But in
other cultures and cuisines, these modest-looking vegetables are a
prominent part of the everyday diet. In Japan, South America and even
the southern United States, they're a kitchen cupboard staple, adding
vibrant color and nutrition to soups, salads, pies, fries, biscuits,
tempura and sushi.
Native to Central America, the Incas and the Mayas called sweet
potato vines cassiri. They grew many different varieties, including one
used by artists as a coloring agent.
There are many varieties of sweet potatoes, but the two most
commonly grown can be described as either pale-skinned or dark-skinned.
Pale-skinned sweet potatoes have thin, light yellow skins and
pale yellow flesh. They are not sweet after cooking and their texture
is dry and crumbly, similar to a white baking potato. Dark-skinned
sweet potatoes (often confused with yams) have thicker, dark orange
skins and sweet, orange flesh that cooks to a much moister texture.
Though harvested in the late fall, modern cultivating and storage
techniques are helping to make sweet potatoes available year-round.
Canned and frozen potatoes are also available year-round and sometimes
labeled as yams.
When buying, choose firm, evenly shaped sweet potatoes with no cracks, bruises or signs of decay. For the
most nutrition value, always select those with the deepest orange color.
At home, store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, well-ventilated
container. Your basement in the summer, or your garage in the
winter is best. Do not store uncooked sweet potatoes in the
refrigerator. The too-cold temperature alters their flavor and
produces hard, woody center cores.
For the best flavor and freshness, use your sweet potatoes within a
week or two after purchase. Once cooked, sweet potatoes can be
stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Cooked sweet
potatoes also freeze well in aluminum foil or freezer wrap.