The sweet potato should be thought of as a true root and not a tuber, as is commonly believed. It has been one of the most popular foods of tropical and subtropical countries for centuries. Columbus and his men were fed boiled roots by the natives of the West Indies, which these men described as “not unlike chestnuts in flavor.” This new food was carried back to Spain, and from there it was introduced to European countries. De Soto found sweet potatoes growing in the gardens of the Indians who lived in the territory that is now called Louisiana.
During the Civil War, troops short of rations found they could live indefinitely on sweet potatoes alone. The Japanese on Okinawa could not have held out as long as they did if they had not been able to raid sweet potato patches at night. In 1913 the supply of sweet potatoes was so large and the demand so small that Louisiana towns sold them for fifty cents a barrel.
There are two main types of sweet potatoes; those that are mealy when cooked, and those that are wet when cooked—popularly miscalled “yams.” Actually, there are few yams grown in this country, and they are grown almost solely in Florida.
Decay in sweet potatoes spreads rapidly and may give the entire potato a disagreeable flavor. This decay may appear in the form of dark, circular spots or as soft, wet rot, or dry, shriveled, discolored and sunken areas, usually at the ends of the root.
Use the sweet potato baked, steamed, or roasted, in puddings or pies. Whenever possible, they should be cooked in their jackets, to conserve the nutrients. If you wish to discard the skin, this vegetable is much easier to peel when cooked. When combining the sweet potato with other foods, remember that it is a little more difficult to digest than the white potato.
The sweet potato is good for the eliminative system, but is a little more difficult to digest than the white potato. It contains a great deal of vitamin A and is a good source of niacin.
NUTRIENTS IN ONE POUND
Protein: 6.2 g
Fat: 1.5 g
Carbohydrates: 96.6 g
Calcium: 117 mg
Phosphorus: 173 mg
Iron: 2.7 mg
Vitamin A: 30,030 I.U.
Thiamine: 0.37 mg
Riboflavin: 0.23 mg
Niacin: 2.8 mg
Ascorbic acid: 77 mg