Thanksgiving comes – turkey and all clothes, yum. And one of them is traditionally sweet potatoes. Sweet potato is one…
Thanksgiving comes – turkey and all clothes, yum. And one of them is traditionally sweet potatoes.
Sweet potato is one of the oldest vegetables cultivated by humanity, first enchanted in Central America over 5,000 years ago. Columbus and his crew were the first Europeans who tasted sweet potatoes. They liked them and brought them back to Europe. From there they spread through Asia and Africa.
Sweet potatoes are not related to white potatoes, although they both originate in Central and South America and have a similar story. They are in the morning honoring the family and potatoes are in the nutshell family along with tomatoes. Sweet potatoes are botanical roots and potatoes are tubers: a stem structure.
Even sweet potatoes are not the same as yams, although some use the names interchangeably. Yams is in a separate yam family and originates in Africa and Asia. They are generally larger, tumble dry, starch and white flesh. Nutritionally, sweet potatoes rank the high fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins A and C, and low in fat.
An interesting historical footnote about sweet potatoes ̵
1; George Washington Carver, born a slave, became Director of Agricultural Experiment Station at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama from the 1890s to the 1920s. He is best known for his work with peanuts and sweet potatoes. He acknowledged the value of sweet potato and did extensive work and invented over 100 new uses for them, from dyes to synthetic rubber, in addition to their food value.
Cotton, the most important plant in the south at that time was very harmful to the ground. Carver promote rotating cotton with sweet potatoes, peanuts and other legumes to improve the soil and diversify agriculture. He was far ahead of his time.
USA ranked 10th in sweet potato production worldwide (£ 3.1 billion). China is the first with three African countries and Vietnam all ranked before the United States. Alabama is the state-of-the-art state. Farms can produce up to 2,000 pound sweet potatoes per acre, compared to £ 4,000 for white potatoes.
Sweet potatoes consumption in the United States has increased from an average of 4.2 per person 2000 to 7.6 in 2015. This increase has been driven by the growing food trend for more healthy, colorful and unique foods and the industry’s promotion of sweet potatoes, chips and other convenience foods.
Compare this with the Americans’ annual consumption of 117 pounds of white potatoes, mainly as oil and saltwater potatoes chips and fries.
So, eat more sweet potatoes. They are not just for Thanksgiving anymore.
Ed Perkins grows sweet potato on his farm in Athens County.