How much do you know about sweet potatoes, aside from how delicious it is?
You may not give it much thought except around Thanksgiving. However, they’re actually the perfect vegetable all year long.
February is National Sweet Potato Awareness Month, which makes right now the perfect time to tell you all about the sweet potato.
A Sweet Root
Sweet potatoes are native to the tropical regions in the Americas and do not survive freezing temperatures. Historical accounts indicate they were cultivated in the Americas around 5000 years ago, but there are some records of older varieties being farmed in Peru as far back as 8000 BCE.
Today, North Carolina provides about a third of the sweet potatoes sold in the United States, but sweet potatoes are grown in just about every tropical country across the globe.
A Sweet Bonus
If you thought the best part about sweet potatoes is how delicious they are, I have great news for you. They are also packed with nutrients!
- Vitamin A – sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, which is the precursor for vitamin A, meaning which means the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A. The darker the orange color, the more beta-carotene. Beta-carotene plays a crucial role in maintaining eye health, healthy skin and a strong immune system.
- Manganese – manganese is a trace mineral that works with calcium and phosphorus in keeping your bones strong and helps maintain proper functioning of the thyroid gland.
- Vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is critical in collagen formation, which keeps your skin healthy. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb non-animal sources of iron, which is great news for vegetarians and vegans.
Sweetening the Pot
When you think sweet potatoes at holiday time, you probably think about them topped with marshmallows, or in a pie. But, sweet potatoes can be enjoyed in savory dishes as well. They lend great to recipes with a sweet and salty flavor profile.
- Sweet Vegetable. Heat your oven to 450 degrees. Cut sweet potatoes into thick slices, toss with oil, salt, cinnamon, and powdered ginger until coated, then spread evenly onto a large baking pan. Roast for about 20 minutes or until soft and serve as a side to your main meal.
- Sweet Stew. Get out your slow cooker for a lentil and sweet potato stew. Mix a ½ a cup of green lentils, 4 cups of vegetable stock, a small diced onion, and 3 – 4 sweet potatoes diced into large cubes. Cook on high for 4 hours or until lentils are soft.
- Sweet Breakfast. Use your favorite pancake mix and add a mashed baked sweet potato to the batter. Sprinkle with nutmeg and drizzle with pure maple syrup and you have an elegant and nutritious new way to enjoy those sweet potatoes.
As I’m sure you can tell, I really love the versatility of sweet potatoes as an ingredient, and their nutrient density is an added bonus!
Your Turn to Take Action: How will you incorporate sweet potatoes into your day? Let me know in the comments below.