Eat nutritious, delicious La. sweet potatoes

Linda F. Benedict, Reames, Elizabeth S.

News Release Distributed 10/12/10

Not only are sweet potatoes delicious to eat, but they’re loaded with beta-carotene. Their deep orange color indicates a food rich in carotene, which becomes vitamin A inside the body, according to Beth Reames, LSU AgCenter extension nutritionist.

Vitamin A is needed for normal growth, development, reproduction, a healthy immune system and vision. One medium baked sweet potato provides about twice the recommended daily amount of vitamin A.

Sweet potatoes are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium. They’re also a good source of vitamin C when baked in the skin. They are low in sodium, fat and saturated fat. One medium baked sweet potato has only 103 calories.

When buying sweet potatoes, choose well-shaped, firm potatoes with smooth, bright and uniformly colored skins. Avoid sweet potatoes with holes or cuts that penetrate the skin, which cause decay.

Typically, sweet potatoes after harvest are cleaned and then cured and stored until they are ready to be transported to market. Most sweet potatoes purchased at the grocery store are cured.

Newly dug, uncured potatoes are often available in the fall at farmers markets. They must be cured before they are ready for baking.

“Uncured potatoes are good boiled, mashed, candied, fried and in many cooked dishes,” Reames said. “But buy only cured sweet potatoes for baking.”

You can cure sweet potatoes yourself by holding them for about 10 days at 80-85 degrees and high relative humidity (85-90 percent). They also may be cured at lower temperatures of 65-75 degrees for two to three weeks.

“Do not store them in the refrigerator. Chilling sweet potatoes will give them a hard core and an undesirable taste when cooked,” Reames said.

To bake sweet potatoes, scrub and dry well. Rub lightly with oil. Don’t wrap in foil. Place on baking sheet. Bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees, and bake until soft.

“Our Louisiana sweet potatoes are so sweet and flavorful, you don’t need to add butter or sugar,” Reames said.

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

To boil sweet potatoes, drop in boiling water, lower heat and cook in skins until tender. Drain immediately. Peel and eat or use in your favorite recipe.

Most sweet potato dishes freeze well. Save time and energy by making a sweet potato dish to serve and one to store in the freezer.

Linda Foster Benedict
1/4/2011 1:13:49 AM
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