Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension
It’s that time of year when many people are harvesting their sweet potatoes. As you dig those tasty roots from the ground, it’s hard not to think of that special sweet potato casserole that is a fall favorite. Not only do sweet potatoes taste great, they are healthful as well.
According to Encyclopedia of Foods: A Guide to Healthy Nutrition, three fourths of a cup of baked sweet potato contains 155 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 36 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of protein and no fat. They provide a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium.
When choosing a sweet potato, you want the skin to be a bright uniform color and firm to the touch. Sweet potatoes and yams look alike but they are not related. Yams are blander than the sweet potato. Unlike the sweet potato, yams do not contain vitamin A, but they are a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Yams can be stored, prepared and used in the same ways that sweet potatoes are used.
If you grow your own sweet potatoes, they need to be cured after they are harvested. To cure the sweet potatoes, put them in a room with high humidity and warm temperatures for seven to ten days. It is during this time that starches are converted to sugars improving the flavor of the potato. This also allows a callus to form over the cuts and scratches on the skin. Once the sweet potatoes have cured, they should be stored at a cool (50-55 degrees) temperature with high humidity. Do not store your raw sweet potatoes in the refrigerator as that can alter the taste. Once they are cooked, sweet potatoes can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week or they can be frozen.
Sweet potatoes are very versatile. They can be baked in an oven or microwave like other potatoes. They can also be boiled but it is recommended that the skin be left on while boiling and easily removed after boiling. Mashed sweet potatoes can be substituted for pureed pumpkin in muffin, cake and cookie recipes. They also taste great added to casseroles, soups and stews.
Whether you are using sweet potatoes or yams, casseroles, soups and desserts can be enhanced by their addition. Dishes made with sweet potatoes are a healthful and colorful addition to your fall menus.