What is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?
Sweet potatoes and yams are both starchy, edible roots. True yams (Dioscorea genus) are native to Africa and are rough and scaly. They grow only in tropical climates since they require a longer growing season. True yams are low in beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C. They are popular in South and Central America, the West Indies and parts of Asia. There are no true yams produced in the United States for food. Actually, all "yams" grown in the United States are sweet potatoes. In general usage in the U.S., however, the terms sweet potato and yam are used interchangeably.
What is beta-carotene?
Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A. It is found in plant foods and gives the sweet potatoes their orange pigment. Beta-carotene acts as an anti-oxidant in the body. Anti-oxidants neutralize free radicals, which are molecules that have unpaired electrons. These unpaired electrons make the free radical unstable. The free radical readily attacks other molecules causing damage. This damage has been implicated in the aging process and the development of cancer, cataracts and heart disease.
It may be noted that the high levels of beta-carotene and lower carbohydrate content make Sweet Potatoes as excellent choice for people who are trying to reduce their carbohydrate intake while maintaining healthy levels of important vitamins and nutrients. (Additional nutritional information is available under Nutrition link.)
How to select and store your Sweet Potatoes?
Choose firm, round, well-shaped potatoes with somewhat even coloring. Handle them carefully to prevent bruising. Store in a cool (50 to 60 degrees), dry, well-ventilated area. Do not refrigerate sweet potatoes unless they are already cooked. Cold temperatures will give potatoes a hard core and cause flavor loss. Sweet Potatoes are more nutritious if cooked with the skin on. Wash and dry your sweet potatoes thoroughly before cooking. Always use a stainless steel knife when cutting a Sweet Potato. Using a carbon blade will cause the sweet potato to darken. Sweet potatoes are a perfect addition to your menu fall, winter, spring and summer. They do not discolor on standing and their flavor blends well with many other dishes.
Are Sweet Potatoes better for you than white potatoes?
Both sweet potatoes and white potatoes are high in carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Each has less than 1 gram of fat, but sweet potatoes have the added bonus of providing more than five times the RDA for vitamin A and are high in beta-carotene. Also sweet potatoes provide a source of complex carbohydrate. In fact, the Center for Science in the Public Interest ranks the sweet potato Number 1 of all vegetables in nutritional content.
What is the best time of year to buy and serve Mississippi Sweet Potatoes?
Once sweet potatoes were thought of as a holiday food primarily served at Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, today, with the availability of temperature and humidity controlled storage facilities, sweet potatoes may be stored for up to thirteen months under the proper conditions. Now Mississippi Sweet Potatoes can be enjoyed year round, and because of their versatility, may be enjoyed during all seasons in a variety of ways. They may be baked, boiled, fried, microwaved, as well as being delicious served raw in salads or with dip.
What Varieties of sweet potatoes are grown in Mississippi?
There are a number of varieties of sweet potatoes grown in the United States. In Mississippi, the majority of growers plant the Beauregard sweet potato variety. It has a smooth, rosy outer skin and is a deep orange inside. These potatoes are soft, moist and sweet with a smooth creamy texture after cooking. Another orange fleshed variety grown is Evangeline. It is known for its high sugar content. White fleshed varieties include O'Henry and Bonita.
Varieties of Sweet Potatoes
There are hundreds of sweet potato varieties that can be divided into five (5) basic types:
Orange skin with orange flesh
Red skin with orange flesh
Yellow skin with white flesh
Purple skin with white flesh
Purple skin with purple flesh
Each variety will have a unique flavor and texture. Select the variety that works best for your recipe.
(Information and photo courtesy of the US Sweet Potato Council)