All About Sweet Potatoes
Choose evenly-shaped sweet potatoes with firm, smooth skin. Avoid sweet potatoes that are bruised, blemished or have white areas, as they will spoil faster. Small or medium sweet potatoes are creamier than large ones (which are starchier).
There are many ways to prepare sweet potatoes, but baking whole is highly recommended. Pierce whole sweet potatoes with a fork. Bake at 400° F until tender, 45 to 50 minutes. You can split open a baked potato, top with chili or some other stew, and make it a meal.
Steaming is preferable to boiling to preserve maximum nutritional benefits. Sliced into ½-inch slices, sweet potatoes can be steamed in just 7 minutes. Once cooked, you can drizzle with olive oil and other seasonings and serve. Mash or puree the cooked slices for a different texture.
Sweet potatoes are typically cured before you buy them, which allows cuts in the roots to heal, protecting them for longer storage. Cured sweet potatoes can be stored for several months. Individually wrap each sweet potato in clean newsprint or brown paper bags. These materials allow the potato to continue to breathe. Place the wrapped potatoes in an open box or basket which is placed in a dark cool location (between 55 and 60F). A root cellar is perfect for this. Under ideal conditions, sweet potatoes can be stored for up to 6 months. Raw sweet potatoes should not be refrigerated because the cold will accelerate deterioration.
Cooked sweet potatoes can be frozen. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes and boil them whole until tender, about 15-20 minutes. You can slice or mash the cooked sweet potatoes. (Freezing them whole is not recommended because the texture will be altered when it thaws.) Sprinkle the prepared sweet potatoes with 1 teaspoon lemon per potato. The lemon juice prevents discoloration. Let them cool. Freeze in airtight plastic bags or containers. Sweet potatoes can be frozen for 10-12 months.
Featured Recipe: Sweet Potato-Chipotle Soup
This is one of my favorite soups. I love the contrast between the sweetness of the sweet potato and honey and the smoky heat of the chipotle. I use canned chipotles in adobo sauce, pureeing the chipotle with whatever sauce clings to it.
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 cups chicken broth
½ cup honey
½ cup heavy cream or half-and-half
2 Tbsp pureed or finely chopped canned chipotles
Salt and pepper to taste
Tortilla chips to garnish
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sweat the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Raise the heat to high. Add the sweet potatoes and stock. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and add honey, cream, chipotles, and salt and pepper to taste. Puree in a blender until smooth.
Serve hot garnished with tortilla chips.
Makes 8 servings
Betsy Pollack is a LexFarm board member with a passion for cooking. She tries to eat as mindfully as possible, thinking about where food comes from, geographically and otherwise, eating seasonally, and supporting local agriculture.
More Ideas for Sweet Potatoes
For a chunkier soup, try one with collard greens or kale.
Sweet potatoes have an affinity with Southwestern or Mexican flavors. Try enchiladas, quesadillas (with cheese, without cheese, or with chicken), tacos, or burritos with sweet potatoes.
Toss with onions for a gratin.
Bake some sweet potato falafel.
Top pizza with sweet potatoes.
Add to an abundance bowl along with broccoli.
Include sweet potatoes as part of a sheet pan supper.
Sweet potatoes can be enjoyed as a side dish in so many different forms: simply baked whole, sliced and roasted, mashed, or fried.
Cut the potatoes into wedges, toss with spices and roast them. The spice mixture easily doubles for another time, or to use on roasted winter squash.
Slice and toss with garlic oil before roasting and serve with fried sage.
Make twice-baked potatoes.
Pan-roast them with sesame seeds.
Mash them with apples, along with warm spices or with lime and yogurt, which make deliciously complex flavors out of just a few ingredients.
There are so many variations on sweet potato salad. Grilled Sweet Potato Salad, with cumin, lime, and cilantro, is one of Jackie's all-time favorite dishes.
Other possibilities include tossing with mustard vinaigrette, adding lentils or pecans, or giving it an Asian or Southwestern flair.
Enjoy sweet potatoes for breakfast in hash with poached eggs.
For dessert, make a sweet potato pie, sweet potato chai muffins, or substitute cooked, pureed sweet potato in recipes for pumpkin or squash quick breads and muffins. Here's a vegan pumpkin muffin recipe that Jackie's young kids love with pumpkin or sweet potatoes. They freeze well for having packable school day snacks on hand or for egg- and dairy-allergic friends.