The sweet potato is a perennial plant grown in the tropics and subtropics such as Central America, Peru or the Philippines. It is cultivated for its edible tubers.
Depending on the variety, the skin and flesh of the sweet potato can be white, yellow, orange, or purple.
The benefits of sweet potato:
- Rich in fiber;
- Low glycemic index;
- Rich in vitamin A, B6, B9 and C;
- Rich in copper and manganese;
- Reduces the risk of cancer and cardiovascular pathologies;
- Improves liver functions.
Sweet potato, what is it?
Sweet potato identity card
- Season: October to March.
- Family: Convolvulaceae;
- Origin: South America;
- Color: White, yellow, orange or purple;
- Flavor: Sweet.
Characteristics of sweet potato
The sweet potato is composed of a fibrous flesh that can be of different colors (white, yellow, orange or purple) and a thick skin that is also colored (orange or purple). It has an elongated shape reminiscent of a potato.
The sweet potato, many ways to cook it: understand everything in 2 minutes
Differences from related foods
The sweet potato is close to the potato yet they have different compositions. Indeed, the sweet potato contains 50% more fiber than the potato and its glycemic index is much lower. In addition, the coloring substances, which are antioxidants, of the sweet potato are not found in the potato.
Word from the nutritionist
To fully benefit from the benefits of sweet potato, you can eat it raw in carpaccio or as a remould. So you will take full advantage of its vitamins and minerals which will not be degraded by cooking.
Nutritional values of sweet potato
For 100g of sweet potato:
|Vitamin A||1750 µg|
|Vitamin B6||0.23 mg|
|Vitamin B9||6 µg|
|Vitamin C||16.2 mg|
11 Benefits of Sweet Potato: Why Eat Them?
- Moderately caloric thanks to its low protein and lipid content, it is suitable for people wishing to lose weight.
- Rich in fibers which will play a role in regulating gastrointestinal function, lowering cholesterol levels and managing blood sugar levels.
- Low glycemic index. The glycemic index of the sweet potato is 70 and that of the regular potato varies between 80 and 111 depending on the variety. Eating foods that are low on the glycemic index can help people with diabetes, or who are at risk, to better control their blood sugar.
- Rich in vitamin A which helps in the growth of bones and teeth, maintains healthy skin and protects against infections. In addition, it plays an antioxidant role and promotes good vision, especially in the dark.
- Rich in carotenoids, antioxidants that will fight against free radicals.
- Reduced risk of cancer thanks to the anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants, which it contains.
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Thanks to the phenolic compounds and anthocyanins it contains, sweet potato could prevent and decrease the oxidation of “bad” cholesterol (LDL), a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- Improvement of liver functions also thanks to anthocyanins.
- Decreased insulin resistance and improved blood sugar control thanks to the low glycemic index of sweet potato.
- Stimulation of the immune response thanks to antioxidants.
- Slowing of the deterioration of cognitive functions which would be due to the high content of antioxidants.
Choosing the right food
Sweet potatoes can be found in most grocery stores.
The different varieties
The color of their flesh ranges from creamy white to purple, through orange and red. From a nutritional standpoint, varieties with orange or purple flesh are preferable. The flesh should be firm, without soft spots and without cracks.
Sweet potatoes can be stored in a cool, dark and airy place, they will keep for 7 to 10 days.
Preparation of the sweet potato
How to cook it? How to match it?
Sweet potatoes, like yams, lend themselves to the same culinary uses as potatoes. Its flesh, much sweeter than that of potatoes, can also be used in desserts, marmalades, puddings, cookies, cakes, ice creams, pancakes and other desserts.
- As an accompanying vegetable, cook them in water. Or, make thick slices that you will brown in the pan. Cook until the inside is tender, then season with a fresh herb.
- Incorporate cubes of sweet potato into the couscous.
- For soups or veloutés, cook the sweet potato cubes in chicken broth and put in a blender. Add sour cream or yogurt, a squeeze of lime and ginger.
- To make roasted pancakes, grate the tubers and finely chop an onion. Squeeze in a cloth to extract the juice. Mix with eggs and flour and fry in a pan. If desired, season the preparation with cumin, hot peppers and curry.
- Incorporate sweet potato flesh into mashed fish, such as brandade, a mixture of crumbled cod, oil, cream and garlic.
- West Indian. Cook the cubed tubers with onion and squash pieces in coconut milk seasoned with cloves, cinnamon and salt.
- In Africa, a crispy flatbread is made by mixing equal parts wheat flour and the cooked flesh of sweet potatoes. The dough is then divided into portions, flattened and cooked in a pan, dry or with a little oil.
- The leaves and stems are eaten like spinach.
History of the sweet potato
The term “potato” first appeared in our language in 1599. It derives from the Spanish batata, which borrowed it from one of the many languages spoken by the Arawaks, natives of the central region of the Americas. The latter were notably installed in the West Indies at the time of the Conquest and they were, of course, consumers of sweet potato.
It was long believed that the sweet potato came from India, and some still say so. This is because this plant was probably cultivated on the Indian subcontinent before the 16th century. However, archaeological excavations carried out in Peruvian sites – where the oldest remains date from 8000 years before our era – indicate that it is indeed native to South America. It is not known if these are cultivated varieties, but if they were, the sweet potato would likely be the first plant to be domesticated in the New World, if not on the planet. The wild ancestor of this species has never been found, although those of other species of the genus Ipomoea have been found.
The sweet potato was introduced by the Spanish and Portuguese to Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia after the conquest of the New World. On the other hand, it was introduced in Oceania well before the discovery of America, perhaps around 1500 before our era. She would have travelled west on South American and then Polynesian boats to gradually settle on all the Pacific Islands, where she has long been a staple food. Another hypothesis is that its seeds could have been disseminated by birds, including the Polynesian golden plover, known to be an occasional visitor to the western coasts of South America. Of
Today, the sweet potato is cultivated in all tropical countries, where it constitutes an important food resource. In several places, it is also fed to farm animals.
Although the sweet potato is native to the tropics, researchers have selected varieties that can be grown in the north with relative success. Very decorative, the plant is also cultivated in flower beds. Propagation is done by cuttings. You can get the cuttings from a specialist or take them yourself from one or more plants that have been kept in a pot indoors during the winter. It will then be enough to put them in water until they have formed good roots.
Transplant the seedlings as soon as they are delivered or keep them in water until they can be planted in the ground, that is, when the dangers of frost have passed. Choose a sunny, warm, weed-free location. Make knobs of loose soil to promote tuber growth.
The pH should be between 5 and 6.5. Apply an organic fertilizer based on phosphate and potassium. Avoid nitrogen which may favour the stems to the detriment of the tubers. Make sure that the irrigation is constant, but avoid that the plants have their feet in the water.
Harvesting is done when frost darkens the leaves or when the temperature drops below 10 ºC. Mature the tubers for 1 week.
Ecology and environment
Both less demanding on the soil and more productive per hectare than cereals, the sweet potato is also particularly well suited to arid climates and dry soils. In addition, since it has creeping stems, it protects the soil against wind erosion. In tropical countries, unlike the major cereal crops, it is mainly produced by small producers, particularly women, who often cultivate it on tiny plots of land. This allows them to feed their families at a lower cost. The plant is easy to propagate since it is usually sufficient to take cuttings from established plants and poke them directly into the soil, without any other major intervention. Energetic and rich in nutrients, it constitutes, along with other root vegetables.