Taste of Fall: Sweet Potatoes

Taste of Fall: Sweet Potatoes
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Taste of Fall: Sweet PotatoesA Taste of Fall: Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are the sweet, orange-fleshed root that we traditionally think of as a Thanksgiving vegetable. What is the difference between a yam and sweet potato? A yam is actually a tuber that looks much like a sweet potato and grows in Africa. The sweet potato we commonly buy in the United States is not a yam, though it has been called that since its introduction.

When this sweet-fleshed “potato” started arriving in the U.S., those selling the new vegetable didn’t want there to be confusion with a traditional potato. They decided to label the sweet potato a "yam" because it resembled the tuber from Africa known as nyami. The true yam is actually starchy instead of sweet, has very rough skin and has a growing season of over 300 days.

What does this mean to homemakers and cooks? Nothing, except it's a neat little tidbit of food lore. Sweet potatoes are tubers with a sweet flesh that are cooked much like potatoes-- microwaved, baked, boiled or steamed. Once it's cooked and peeled, the flesh is easily mashed and it looks much like pumpkin or squash. Mashed sweet potato can substituted for pumpkin in breads, muffins, soups and dessert recipes.

Choose sweet potatoes that are free of bruises or discoloration. Store them much like potatoes, in a cool area, but do not refrigerate. They will keep in a dry, dark pantry, closet etc. for 2 weeks or so.

The simple way to serve sweet potatoes is peeled and mashed with a bit of butter and salt. Below are several recipes to give you an idea of the different ways a sweet potato can be cooked and served.

Mashed Maple Sweet Potatoes

5 large sweet potatoes
1/2 cup salted butter
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. maple syrup

Scrub the skins of the sweet potato and prick each one several times with a fork. Place in the microwave on the revolving tray or a plate in a circle, spaced evenly.  Microwave on high for 8-10 minutes, turning at least once. I start out with five minutes, turn the sweet potatoes and depending on how large they are, cook 3-5 minutes more. Test the potatoes with a fork. When it inserts easily they are done cooking. Remove from the microwave, cut in half lengthwise with a sharp knife and cool until they can be handled. The skin will easily peel away from the flesh. Discard the skins or add to the compost pile.

Place the sweet potato flesh in a bowl, and mash with a potato masher or large fork. Add the butter, pepper and maple syrup and stir, or mash slightly. Return to the microwave to heat through and serve.

This is about 4 servings.

Baked Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Everyone has a favorite way to serve sweet potatoes, but what do you do when part of the family prefers extra sweet, and the others like a bit of savory with their side dish? This recipe, with all of its variations, is the perfect solution. The amount of potatoes depends on how many guests are coming to dinner.

4-8 medium sweet potatoes
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
1/2 cup marshmallow cream
Brown sugar
Ground Cinnamon
Ground Black Pepper
Cream or Half and Half
Crushed Pineapple
Orange Juice, or Oranges
Diced Apple
Fresh Chives

Scrub the sweet potatoes, and rub lightly with olive or vegetable oil. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 400 degrees F. Test with a knife or fork to check when the potatoes are soft. When the potatoes are done, remove from the oven and cool slightly until they can be handled.

Cut a slit in the top of each potato and carefully scoop out the cooked flesh, leaving a shell.

Place the sweet potato flesh in a bowl, and mash. At this point, you'll want to determine what your guests prefer. Divide the mashed sweet potato into 2-4 bowls depending on what you decide. Below are suggestions based on the ingredients:

Bowl 1: Add butter, cream, pepper, cream, salt to the bowl, and mix with an electric mixer until fluffy. Scoop into the potato, and top with snipped fresh chives.

Bowl 2: Add butter, salt, and orange juice. Mix well, and spoon back into the potato. Top with orange zest.

Bowl 3: Add butter, salt, cream, brown sugar and diced apple. Mix well and spoon back into the potato. Top with a light sprinkling of cinnamon.

Bowl 4: Add butter, salt, marshmallow cream, a tiny bit of brown sugar and cinnamon. Beat until fluffy, and top with a little more marshmallow cream.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.


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