Elizabeth S. Reames | 10/12/2005 2:00:52 AM
Sweet potatoes are a perfect choice for the health-conscious consumer. They add valuable nutrients and color to any meal, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
The Louisiana yam is an exceptional type of sweet potato, sweet and flavorful, with a soft moist flesh. Reames says its deep orange color indicates it is rich in carotene, which becomes vitamin A inside the body.
One medium baked sweet potato supplies about twice the recommended daily amount of vitamin A. "Sweet potatoes also are a good source of dietary fiber and potassium and of vitamin C when baked in the skin," Reames says, adding, "They are low in sodium, fat and saturated fat. One medium baked sweet potato has only 103 calories."
The Dietary Guidelines recommend choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, including legumes, starchy vegetables and those that are dark green or orange. People who eat more fruits and vegetables are likely to have reduced risk of stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
"When buying yams, choose well-shaped, firm potatoes with smooth, bright, uniformly colored skins," the nutritionist advises, cautioning, "Avoid sweet potatoes with holes or cuts that penetrate the skin, where decay forms.
Freshly dug potatoes are uncured. They are good boiled, mashed, candied, fried and in many cooked dishes, but uncured potatoes do not bake successfully.
Yams must be cured two or three weeks before they will bake. Store cured yams in a cool, dry place where the temperature is about 55 F or 60 F. Do not store them in the refrigerator. Chilling the vegetable will give it a hard core and an undesirable taste.
Well-matured, carefully handled and properly cured potatoes will keep for several months if the temperature and storage conditions are ideal. Ideal conditions usually are not possible, however, and potatoes spoil easily. You might wish to cook and freeze them to maintain their high quality.
To bake sweet potatoes, scrub them and dry them well. Rub lightly with oil. Don’t wrap in foil for baking. Place on baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 400 F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 F, and bake until soft.
Save energy by baking several at a time. Wrap individually in foil; then store together in freezer bag or freezer paper in the freezer. Reheat in the oven.
To boil sweet potatoes, boil until tender with skins on and drain immediately. Peel and eat or use in your favorite recipe. Most sweet potato dishes freeze well. Save time and energy by making one sweet potato dish to serve and one to store in the freezer.
To freeze cooked, cut yams, and prevent them from darkening, dip the potatoes in lemon or orange juice or in a solution of ascorbic acid dissolved in a little water. When freezing mashed potatoes, stir the juice or ascorbic acid into the potatoes. Pack tightly in containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Cover the surface snugly with a layer of freezer paper or film. Seal and freeze at zero F.
Sweet potatoes may be cooked, but not baked, in the microwave. When microwaved, however, they won’t have the sweet, syrupy flavor of oven-baked potatoes.
Canned or frozen sweet potatoes may be substituted for the fresh form in any recipe calling for cooked sweet potatoes as the starting point. Canned sweet potatoes are generally smaller in diameter because of their better canning qualities. Six to eight canned sweet potatoes are approximately the equivalent of four medium fresh sweet potatoes.
For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com.