A really SWEET sweet potato – that’s Evangeline

Linda Benedict, Smith, Tara, Clark, Christopher A., Villordon, Arthur O., Labonte, Don R.  |  6/9/2009 6:50:45 PM

Don LaBonte, Christopher Clark, Arthur Villordon and Tara P. Smith

Why do people eat sweet potatoes? Because they are sweet! A new variety, Evangeline, just released by the LSU AgCenter, will satisfy those who want a really sweet sweet potato. What makes Evangeline so special is its sugar profile with twice as much sucrose as Beauregard, another widely grown LSU AgCenter-developed variety. Evangeline does, however, have less maltose, a sugar produced during cooking. But this is a great tradeoff. People perceive sucrose (table sugar) as being much sweeter than maltose. Not only is Evangeline sweeter out of the oven, it also makes a great microwaved sweet potato. AgCenter research has shown it has twice the sucrose content and similar levels of maltose as Beauregard when microwaved. Evangeline also has excellent processing qualities, and the deep orange flesh color has wide appeal.

Taste aside, this sweet potato variety also has much to offer Louisiana producers. Yield and overall quality of this variety have been comparable to Beauregard. Evangeline appears to produce fewer jumbos, or oversized roots, than Beauregard, so potentially, this could translate into a few more U.S. No.1 grade roots at harvest. If growers are delayed in their harvest operations, they may have more time to capture the high-value, premium U.S. No.1 grade, which is what you whole buy in the store.

In 2008, AgCenter researchers also discovered that Evangeline did not break down and rot in the soil when torrential rains associated with Hurricane Gustav ravaged Louisiana agriculture. Fields of Evangeline sweet potatoes remained harvestable while many planted in Beauregard suffered significant loss. A variety that can tolerate flooding is a tremendous asset, given the high cost of sweet potato production. In addition, stored roots from flooded fields held up well and remained flavorful following months of storage. This lagniappe information garnered in 2008 has swayed many producers to plant larger acreages of Evangeline in 2009.

Disease resistance of Evangeline is similar to Beauregard except that Evangeline has resistance to southern root knot nematode, a disease common in some production areas. The variety is not as good a plant producer as Beauregard. Farmers are being encouraged to presprout (warm up) roots before bedding them in the ground to increase earliness and quantity of plants. Sweet potatoes are not propagated like true potatoes – roots are not cut into pieces and planted, but rather bedded in the ground. The bedded roots generate sprouts, which are cut and transferred to production fields.

Louisiana is renowned for producing the best sweet potatoes, and the taste and appeal of the famous “Louisiana Yam” is known around the world. Evangeline builds on this strong tradition and is sure to impress the palates of all who try it.

Don LaBonte, Professor, School of Plant, Environmental & Soil Sciences, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.; Christopher Clark, Professor, Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.; Arthur Villordon, Associate Professor, and Tara P. Smith, Assistant Professor, Sweet Potato Research Station, Chase, La.

(This article was published in the spring 2009 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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