The sweet potato, also called American potato or batata (the scientific term is Ipomoea batatas), does not really belong to the same family of potatoes, but to that of Convolvulaceae. In fact, these are not tubers but tuberous roots with a high content of carbohydrates that give the typical sweet flavor. Originally from tropical areas, it was cultivated on the American continent but, thanks to the arrival of Europeans, starting from 1500 it also spread to the Old Continent and Asia, while in Oceania it was known even before European colonization.
The plant from which it grows is a perennial herbaceous variety, from which these tapered roots with smooth or wrinkled skin arise that can take on different shades, between red and purple, but also brown and beige, while the pulp is usually darker than that of the common potato and can be white, yellow, orange or purple in color.
In addition to the presence of simple or complex carbohydrates, sweet potatoes are rich in fiber and have a high concentration of equivalent retinol, especially Beta carotene, comparable to that of carrots. They also contain vitamin B6 and high levels of minerals such as potassium and manganese.
Sweet potatoes are easily found in the autumn period, approximately from September to November. They are kept quite easily and, also thanks to the arrival from distant countries, it is possible to buy them throughout the year on the market stalls.
Use in the kitchen
Grown mainly for edible use, they are prepared boiled, fried or baked. One of the most tempting recipes is the one that involves cutting the sweet potatoes into thin sticks and frying them in abundant boiling oil. They can also be cut into wedges and baked in the oven, or left whole, still with the peel, and stuffed with butter, salt, pepper, cheese or other ingredients as in the typical Anglo-Saxon dish: jacked potatoes.
Given the high quantity of sugars, they are also used for the preparation of desserts such as potato pie, a typical American cake made with sweet potatoes, cinnamon and nutmeg, souffle or even alone, perhaps caramelized. In addition, another way to enjoy sweet potatoes is to prepare a good, very delicate soup with a cheerful orange color, which can be accompanied by almonds, for example. Sweet potatoes can be an excellent alternative to traditional potatoes for pizzas and scones to be offered as appetizers.
Out of use in the kitchen, they are also used as feed for livestock, as a natural dye for fabrics, or, in industrial production, for the extraction of starch, alcohol and flour.
How to clean them
Sweet potatoes, like common yellow potatoes, still have earth residues on the skin. Brush them well and rinse them quickly under cold water before using them, whether you consume them with the skin or peeled. If you also immerse the pulp in water, you will eliminate most of the starch and obtain a drier and crispier frying.
How to store
Potatoes can be kept for a week, about 10 days, in a cool and dry place. Once boiled or baked in the oven, they can be put in the refrigerator for non-immediate consumption (but in any case within a couple of days), while the fried ones are to be eaten as soon as they are cooked.
The beneficial properties
From America to Japan passing through Europe, information on the nutritional properties of sweet potatoes has gone around the world. A super food with a light flavor but with characteristics that make it a real ally for the health of the whole organism. In Japan, sweet potatoes are eaten raw to lower diabetes as they are rich in carotenoids that reduce the glycemic index. The extract of the peel is instead used to decrease the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. Let’s not forget to mention the vitamins that make this food truly extraordinary: Vitamin C and Vitamin A, antioxidants. In addition, sweet potatoes are low in calories and are known for their high amount of potassium, which is even higher than bananas. They have a low glycemic index, lower than common potatoes, being composed of slow-release complex carbohydrates.
Do you know?
Don’t throw away the peel!
In the peel there are many precious nutrients, especially the “cajapo”, which has proved very useful in the fight against diabetes and high cholesterol, because it is capable of reducing the so-called basal blood sugar (glucose value present in fasting blood).