Louisiana Sweet Potatoes/Yams

Mandy Armentor  |  11/3/2010 1:50:01 AM

In Louisiana, sweet potatoes or yams are synonymous with Thanksgiving. Sweet potatoes are a native American plant and one of the most nutritious foods around. You may have even heard sweet potatoes or yams are considered super foods. They are excellent sources of vitamins A and C. Sweet potatoes are often confused with yams, but yams are large, starchy roots grown in Africa and Asia. Nutritionally, sweet potatoes greatly outweigh yams. Because of the common use of the term “yam,” it is acceptable to use this term when referring to sweet potatoes. This sweetness continues to increase during storage and when they are cooked.

Selection of Sweet Potatoes

Choose firm, dark, smooth sweet potatoes without wrinkles, bruises, sprouts or decay.

Sweet Potatoes Nutrition Facts

Serving size ½ cup, baked

Amounts Per Serving and % Daily Value

Calories 90
Calories from Fat 0
Total Fat 0 g 0%
Saturated Fat 0 g 0%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 35 mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 21 g 7%
Dietary Fiber 3 g 11%
Sugar 8 g
Protein 2 g
Vitamin A 380%
Vitamin C 35%
Calcium 4%
Iron 4%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Storage of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes spoil rapidly. Store them in a dry, cool (55- to 60-degree) place such as a cellar, pantry or garage. Do not store them in the refrigerator, where they will develop a hard core and an “off” taste. If stored properly, sweet potatoes will keep for a month or longer.

Preparation of Sweet Potatoes

Wash sweet potatoes well. Cook them whole whenever possible because most of the nutrients are next to the skin, and skins are easier to remove after they have been cooked. Pierce the skin with fork, place the potatoes in a pan, and cook them in an oven heated to 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until tender. Cool potatoes slightly before removing the skins. Sweet potatoes can be cooked in a microwave oven to save time. Wash and pierce the potatoes, then place them on a paper towel. The cooking time for two  medium potatoes is on high for 5-9 minutes; and 4 potatoes for 10-13 minutes.

You can save energy by baking a large pan of sweet potatoes. Wrap them individually in foil after baking, and store them together in freezer bag or freezer paper in the freezer. You can reheat them in the oven.

Sweet potatoes may be cooked – but not baked – in a microwave oven. When cooked in a microwave, they won’t have the sweet, syrupy flavor of oven-baked potatoes.

For microwaving, wash the sweet potatoes, dry them and puncture them a few times with a fork. Place them on a paper towel on a microwave-safe dish. Cook them on high for 4-5 minutes for the first potato, plus 2-3 minutes for each additional potato. Turn the potatoes over halfway through cooking.

You can boil sweet potatoes with skins on until they’re tender and drain them immediately. Then you can peel and eat them, or use them in your favorite recipe. Most sweet potato dishes freeze well. You can save time and energy by making two sweet potato dishes – one to serve and one to store in the freezer.

To freeze yams, cut or mash cooked sweet potatoes. To prevent darkening, dip cut potatoes in a solution of ascorbic acid dissolved in a little water or in lemon or orange juice. Mix the juice or ascorbic acid with mashed potatoes. Pack them tightly in containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Cover the surface snugly with a layer of freezer paper or plastic film, then seal and freeze them at 0 degrees.

The following are ways to add more sweet potatoes to your meals and snacks:

  • Pack your lunch with a baked sweet potato topped with vanilla yogurt or cinnamon-flavored applesauce.
  • Add peeled chunks to your favorite stew.
  • Switch from potato chips to sweet potato chips.
  • Peel and cut strips to eat with your favorite dip.
  • Blend into a breakfast smoothie.
  • Substitute sweet potatoes in recipes calling for white potatoes or apples.

Varieties

Although sweet potatoes are harvested in August through October, they are available in supermarkets all year. Many stores feature them at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The most common Louisiana variety is the Beauregard variety. Sweet potatoes or yams come in many different forms: fresh, frozen, canned and in many products.

For additional information about yams and sweet potatoes, contact Mandy G. Armentor, MS, RD, LDN, Associate Extension Agent (FCS-Nutrition), in the Vermilion Parish LSU AgCenter office at 1105 W. Port St. in Abbeville or call 898-4335.

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