Sweet Potato Discussion From The Wise Encyclopedia

Sweet Potato Discussion From The Wise Encyclopedia

The sweet potato is a native of tropical America and was known to the Indians before the time of Columbus. The Spanish explorers took the plant back to Europe, where it met with immediate success. There are two types of sweet potato, one with pale yellow flesh which cooks dry and mealy and the other, often incorrectly called yam, with deeper orange flesh which is much sweeter and moister. The true yam is an entirely different plant, a native of Africa. The sweet potato makes a fine substitute for white potatoes, although it is not related botanically.

Hints On Buying

The two types of sweet potatoes are distinguishable in the market. The dry yellow potatoes have a yellowish fawn colored skin, while the darker moister potatoes have a whitish or reddish skin. The varieties vary considerably in shape and in size, and in their cooking characteristics so that it is not desirable to buy mixed vaneties. Sweet potatoes are shipped either as the new crop, or dried and stored for winter use. Either crop is equally good. The new crop potatoes are likely to have more delicate skins and thus bruise more easily; sweet potatoes are very susceptible to damage from bruising and spoil very quickly after an injury is received.

Good quality sweet potatoes are smooth, well shaped and firm; misshapen potatoes wasteful. Potatoes with decayed spots should be avoided because the decay gives an unpleasant flavor even to the unaffected parts of the tuber.

Some potatoes are difficult to keep under ordinary home conditions. For this reason, buy only what will be used in a day or two. To keep satisfactorily, sweet potatoes need a dry storage place with a temperature between 55 and 60 degrees. Dampness will cause them to spoil readily.

Hints On Preparation

Sweet potatoes should be cooked in their jackets whenever possible. Not only does this preserve the nutriments just under the skin, but the potato is much easier to peel than when raw. Also, if sweet potatoes are peeled before cooking some of the sweetness escapes into the cooking water.

If it is necessary to peel sweet potatoes before cooking, drop the pared potatoes into cold salted water to keep from darkening. Cook as quickly as possible. Sweet potatoes are delicious baked in their jackets and served with salt and pepper and a lump of butter or margarine. Boiled sweet potatoes may be mashed just like white potatoes. Sometimes the large tubers contain a certain amount of fibrous stringy material; for this reason it is best to put the cooked sweet potatoes through the ricer, thus removing the fiber, rather than mashing with a potato masher.

Cold mashed sweet potatoes may be used as a substitute for pumpkin or squash in pies and puddings.

To boil sweet potatoes, scrub them thoroughly and place in a kettle of boiling salted water. Cover the pot and boil until the potatoes are tender. Drain off the water, dry the potatoes by shaking the pan for a moment over the stove, and then pull off the skins. The potatoes are now ready for preparation in many ways.

Mash boiled sweet potatoes, season with salt and pepper and beat in a little hot milk until the potatoes are smooth and fluffy. For variety, shape the mashed potatoes into small nests and brown in the oven. For still further variety, use orange juice in place of milk, and grate a little orange rind into the potatoes. For a special occasion, try sherry instead of other liquid.

To bake sweet potatoes, scrub them thoroughly and dry the skins. Bake in a hot oven (435° F.) until tender, 35 to 60 minutes, depending on the size. When they are about half done, prick the potatoes several times with a fork to allow the steam to escape. If you like the skins soft, rub the potatoes with a little fat before baking them.

From The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery, 1971.
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