Sweet potatoes get grades

Linda Benedict, Smith, Tara  |  6/10/2009 1:48:20 AM

Tara P. Smith

Sweet potatoes, like many commodities, are marketed in a variety of ways, and not all sweet potatoes are identical. Retailers and consumers alike demand consistency and quality along grade classes. U.S.-grown sweet potatoes are marketed using "United States Standards for Grades of Sweet Potato." Grade standards are defined primarily along size guidelines, but quality attributes are also extremely important. The premium grade of sweet potatoes in the United States is termed a U.S. No. 1, which is defined as a root between 3-9 inches in length, weighing no more than 20 ounces, and with a diameter ranging from (1 ¾ inches to 3 ½ inches). In addition, a U.S. No. 1 should be firm, smooth, well-shaped and free from damage attributed to diseases and insects.

Other grade classes vary in size and quality specifications compared to a U.S. No. 1 and include U.S. No. 1 Petite, U.S. Extra No. 1, U.S. Commercial and U.S. No. 2. Alternative terminology is commonly used to market sweet potatoes based on size and quality, including "Jumbo" and "Canner" or processor grade roots. Jumbos, as the name would imply, are larger roots that can be sold to the fresh market or to processors, where they are made into a variety of products such as sweet potato fries. Similarly, canner or processor grade roots are sold to canneries and other processors and are packaged into cans or used for a variety of other products.

Sweet potato producers in Louisiana market their crop into both fresh market and processing venues. Capitalizing on variability in root size allows producers to maximize their profit potential. Roots that do not meet a certain specification for one retailer may be highly prized by another. So whether it is a highly coveted U.S. No. 1, a Jumbo or a value-added sweet potato product, enjoy one today!
 

Tara P. Smith, Assistant Professor, Sweet Potato Research Station, Chase, La.

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