The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

April 17, 2013

Amanda Stone: Sweet potatoes a better kind of potato

JOPLIN, Mo. — Picture it: a long, curvaceous beauty sunning herself in a tropical paradise. That's how I like to imagine sweet potatoes growing. In actuality, their bulbous orange bodies grow safely underground while their pretty green vines crawl along the dirt in search of sunlight.

They're originally a tropical plant and crave an unbearably hot, wet summer.

You still have time to start growing your sweet potatoes inside. Simply suspend a sweet potato over a jar with some toothpicks. Fill up the jar with water so half of your sweet potato is submerged. Sprouts will shoot out in no time. Snap off the sprouts and put them in a vase with water in a sunny window. You get to enjoy the beauty of the vines in your window while roots grow. In a few weeks, transplant the sprouts or "slips" to your garden. By then the soil will have had plenty of time to warm up.

Sweet potatoes are great for the novice gardener. The only pests they're prone to are rabbits. Those pesky cuties will nibble the leaves until you're left with nothing. I speak from experience.

White potatoes have given sweet potatoes a bad rap, you may be surprised to learn that they're not related. Not even distant cousins. Sweet potatoes have a much lower glycemic index than white potatoes, which simply means they don't spike your blood sugar level the way a white potato does. They are packed full of vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium and fiber. Sweet potatoes are also easy to digest, making them a great first food for babies or anyone with a delicate digestive system. I've also heard them referred to as a skin super food.

If you're only familiar with sweet potatoes that are covered with marshmallows and served at Thanksgiving, it's time for you to branch out. Try substituting sweet potatoes for white potatoes in potato salad, potato pancakes and mashed potatoes. Get creative with sauces and add-ins to accommodate the mild sweetness of the potatoes. Tweak your traditional potato condiments with a little spice, honey or curry. They complement sweet potatoes so well. Or try any of these recipes with one or both of the sauces included. Your choice comes down to whether your feeling sweet or savory.

 

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