Produce Picks: Sweet Potato

Make the most of this hearty, nutritious tuber while it's in peak season.
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187904105

Batata (Ipomoea batatas)

If vegans and paleo eaters could agree on one thing, it would be this: Sweet potatoes are fantastic. Originally grown in Central and South America, they are hearty, nutritious tubers that can become a filling side dish, or serve as the foundation of a meal when stuffed. While they bear the name “potato,” sweet potatoes are part of a different family of vegetables than the standard spud (and yams as well). And don’t think that sweet potatoes need only be orange — thousands of varieties exist, ranging from white to purple.

Nutrients:

One cup of cooked sweet potato with the skin provides a satisfying 180 calories of complex carbs while being an excellent source of fiber (7 grams), vitamin A (beta carotene), vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese, and a good source of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B5, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. And to top it off, it has 4 grams of protein.

Textures and Flavors:

Sweet potatoes are generally cooked before eating, though they can be thinly sliced, shredded or spiralized raw and put in salads for a crunchy texture. Be aware, though, that raw sweet potatoes are generally a bit harder to digest.

When it comes to cooking, there are lots of options — all of which result in a sweet experience. You can cut them into thin slices and bake or fry them crispy. Chop them into chunks and roast with a little oil and some spices to create a smooth, mouth-coating texture option for salads and side dishes. They can be boiled and mashed, cooked down in a stew, blended into a soup, or used in batters for baked goods, most notably pie. And for those with limited time, sweet potatoes can even be microwaved and stuffed — just pierce the skin with a fork five or six times and nuke for 5 to 9 minutes, turning over once halfway through. You can leave the skin on when cooking them; just be sure to wash it well.

Food Pairings:

Sweet potatoes go well in both sweet and savory dishes. They can pair with many things, including: most meats (beef, pork, etc.) or poultry, beans or lentils, plain Greek yogurt, grains (e.g., rice, barley) and pasta, breadcrumbs, graham crackers, moderately strong cheese (e.g., goat, feta or Parmesan), fennel, onions, bitter or spicy greens or veggies (e.g., broccoli rabe or arugula), other root veggies (e.g., carrots, parsnips, winter squashes), citrus fruit and zest (lemon or orange), apple, banana, figs, tree nuts (pecans or walnuts), coconut milk or oil, butter, crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, ginger, sage, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom and honey.

So Many Different Kinds:

Jewel/Beauregard/Covington (all colloquial names for very similar varieties): These have orange skin and orange flesh, and are fairly dry inside when cooked. They are sweet and buttery, perfect for casseroles or raw in salads.

Garnet: These have red skin and orange flesh, and are moist inside when cooked. They are sweet and squashlike, perfect for casseroles, salads or baking recipes.

Hannah: These white-skinned sweet potatoes become yellow when baked. They are dry inside when cooked, and fairly sweet for baking or mashing.

Japanese: These have red skin with white flesh and turn golden when baked. Fairly dry inside when cooked, they are great raw in salads.

Purple Stokes: With purple skin and purple flesh, these pretty potatoes are rich and dry inside when cooked. They aren’t as sweet as other varieties and are good for roasting.

Thanks to Whole Foods for the sweet potato varieties and all the fun facts!

Recipes:

Through his book and blog, Death of the Diet , Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS, empowers people to live the life they want by integrating healthy eating and physical activity habits into their daily routines. You can follow him on Twitter @JMachowskyRDFit.

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