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The Sweet Potato story
It's called the sweet potato. It grows in the ground, is considered a staple in the diet of the lower economic classes, comes wrapped in an ugly brown skin, doesn't stand out among the vast array of supermarket vegetables, and, to be candid, is just plain ugly.
Alas! The lowly sweet potato is an item that is not at the top of the average grocery shopper's list.
But the sweet potato, despite its appearance, is one of nature's unique gifts. It grows throughout the world in the worst of soils and climates, has saved many cultures and civilizations in times of famine, and has been depicted as an honored food in carvings, reliefs, and murals in civilizations such as the Incas, Aztecs, Chinese, Yurubas, and other cultures.
The lowly sweet potato, when eaten, provides the human body with an array of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and is considered by many professional and amateur athletes to be the quintessential power vegetable. This homely tuber is even being touted as a miracle food that contains strong medicinal potential in fighting an assortment of ailments and diseases. And, if you check with your local health food store, you will find bottles of sweet potato extract, the newly hailed cure-all for everything from the common cold to sexual dysfunction.
These days the sweet potato is at the top of the "new chic foods" list. The Canyon Ranch, one of those ritzy spas that costs $1,000 a day, has started serving fried sweet potatoes in the skin for breakfast. You can bet that the sweet potato will soon be heralded by such notables as Wolfgang Puck and Paula Deen as the new "in" food. It looks like the sweet potato's time has come.
Sweet Potato facts
- Sweet potatoes and yams are not the same apple: The sweet potato is a vegetable in the morning-glory family Convolvulaceae, while the yam is in the yam family Dioscoreaceae and is grown only in the tropics of western Africa, Southeast Asia, India, and the Caribbean Islands, with a growing season that is too short for the United States.
- A medium size sweet potato weighs about three-fourths of a pound and is considered one serving.
- Sweet potatoes will not turn dark if put in salt water immediately after peeling (1 tablespoon to 1 quart of water).
- Sweet potatoes were cultivated in colonial Virginia in the early 1600s.
- The sweet potato can be either white or yellow, and the yellow sweet potato is grown mostly in the South, while the white sweet potato is grown in Asia and Africa.
- Sweet potatoes have large amounts of Vitamin A and C and are considered one of the top eight high-energy foods by professional athletes. The average sweet potato contains no fat, is only 165 calories, and contains one-half of the daily requirement of Vitamin C and twice the daily requirement of Vitamin A. It is also a terrific source of complex carbohydrates, B vitamins (especially thiamin), protein, iron, calcium, and potassium.
- Every major culture that has survived owes its survival to the sweet potato, including the South after the War Between the States.
- In the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, George Washington Carver developed and patented over 118 products made from sweet potatoes and sweet potato by-products.