First found in Central America, these large, starchy roots have a sweet and nutty flavour that can last us throughout the winter. They are a staple in Canadian households and are often seen on holiday dinner tables. Here are 8 facts you might not know about the ever incredibly versatile sweet potato.
- Sweet potatoes are the superhero that put a stop to countrywide famines. Many countries, like Japan, began growing sweet potatoes in response to fears of rice crop failure. The sweet potato is now a staple in Japanese cuisine.
- Common potatoes and sweet potatoes are from completely different families. Sweet potatoes are from the Bindweed family, whereas the common potato is from the Solanaceae family. So no, sweet potatoes are not considered a nightshade.
- Sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing. This may be confusing since many grocery stores label their orange-fleshed sweet potatoes as 'yams' but this was a marketing tactic from growers trying to distinguish themselves from other sweet potato varieties in the 1930s. And it stuck! Real yams look more like a yucca with thick brown bark-like skin.
- The sweet potato has a flower that blooms! The sweet potato is in the same family as the Morning Glory flower and blooms quite similarly.
- You can eat sweet potato leaves. Young leaves and shoots can be eaten as greens. Most popularly eaten in the islands in the Pacific Ocean, Asia and Africa but also in Spain where the vines are called camote tops. Like most greens, they are slightly bitter.
- Sweet potatoes do not like onions as their roommates. When you get your sweet potato, we suggest wrapping them in newspaper and storing them in a cool dark place. However, avoid storing them alongside onions. Storing any kind of tuber with onions can cause the vegetables to spoil and sprout faster. This is because onions release ethylene gases that speed up the ageing process.
- Sweet potatoes are low on the glycemic index. Despite their title as 'sweet', these orange-fleshed tubers have plenty of dietary fibre that stops your blood sugar from spiking.
- The orange pigment on a sweet potato is a sign that this vegetable is good for eye health. This pigment is known as beta carotene and is a precursor to vitamin A - known for good vision, a strong immune system, and healthy skin.
Now that the weather is starting to drop, there is nothing better than a warm cozy meal like this Rosemary Sumac Roasted Chicken with Golden Sweet Potato Tokens and Red Onion Rounds. It is one of our favourite ways to enjoy sweet potatoes.