Growing and Cooking with Super-Nutritious Sweet Potatoes
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. Canadian gardener Ken Allen, the author of the only full-length book on growing sweet potatoes, provides these tips in the article Grow Sweet Potatoes—Even in the North.
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. For some creative sweet potato dishes, check out these articles:
- Enjoy Fall Flavors with Healthy Sweet Potato Recipes
- Sweet Potato Leaves Recipe (Yep, the leaves are edible, too!)
- Southern Peanut Stew With Sweet Potatoes and Collard Greens Recipe
For more about choosing varieties, and growing, curing and harvesting sweet potatoes, browse these resources:
Good luck with your sweet potato endeavors! Maybe one day you’ll agree that this is quite possibly the best food on Earth.
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