Versatile Sweet Potato Not Just for the Thanksgiving Day Table
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 6, 2013
Ill. - An easy-to-grow
garden vegetable, sweet potatoes, will soon be ready to be harvested from the
garden, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
potato, Ipomoea batatas, is a very versatile food crop," said Jennifer
Fishburn. "Despite its name, it is not related to the Irish potato. The sweet
potato is a true root, while an Irish potato is a tuber (an underground stem)."
potatoes, native to Central and South America, have been grown in the United
States for hundreds of years. In 2010, 2.3 billion pounds of sweet potatoes
were grown in the United States. North Carolina is the top-producing
sweet potato state, growing 55,000 acres. "No surprise that the sweet potato is
the official vegetable of North Carolina," Fishburn said.
states grow most of the sweet potatoes produced in the United States. Besides
North Carolina, other major growers include Mississippi, Louisiana, California,
Alabama and Arkansas.
"Not only are
sweet potatoes tasty, but they are good for you," Fishburn said.
One cup of
sweet potatoes provides more than 100 percent of the recommended daily
allowance (RDA) of vitamin A (beta carotene). They are also a good source of
vitamin C, maganese and dietary fiber. Sweet potatoes are low in sodium, cholesterol
free and virtually fat free.
potatoes are more nutritious if cooked with the skin on. One cup of cooked
sweet potato has only 180 calories. "Remember, it is what you add to a sweet
potato that increases the calories and fat," she said.
planning, Fishburn said three medium sweet potatoes equal about 1 pound which
equals about 1 one quarter cup pureed. "Sweet potatoes can be eaten steamed,
boiled, baked, fried, as a side dish or as a dessert. There are even sweet
potato chips, fries, pancakes, cookies, fruit juice, ice cream and pet treats,"
potatoes need a long growing season; therefore, Illinois growing conditions are
not suited for growing them commercially, but enough can be produced for home
use. In Illinois, sweet potato plants are planted in late May after the soil
has warmed up and harvested at the time of the first frost in the fall.
"They need a
full-sun garden location with moderate rainfall," Fishburn said. "They grow
best in a fertile, sandy loam, well-drained soil, with a pH of 5.6 to 6.5. At
higher pH levels, diseases are more common. Give them plenty of room as the
vigorous vines can cover 3 to 4 feet. Sweet potatoes prefer 1 inch of water per
week, but avoid overwatering as they can be damaged by too much water."
selecting sweet potatoes Fishburn said to look for potatoes that are firm, well
shaped, and smooth skinned. "Avoid sweet potatoes with soft spots, bruises, or
any decay. The color of the skin and flesh can range from white, light yellow,
orange to red, depending on the cultivar," she added.
"If you plan
to store sweet potatoes, be sure to cure them. Store-bought sweet
potatoes have already been cured. At farmers markets, ask the vendor if they
have cured the potatoes," she said.
place potatoes in a warm room, at 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 percent humidity
(if possible) for 10 to 14 days. Then store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry place
at 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Roots that are carefully handled, properly
cured, and damage free can be stored for at least six months, she said.
potatoes should not be reserved only for Thanksgiving dinner. They are a
nutritious vegetable that can be enjoyed year round," Fishburn said.
facts and great recipes, visit the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission
website at http://www.ncsweetpotatoes.com/.
Source: Jennifer Fishburn, Extension Educator, Horticulture, firstname.lastname@example.org