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A Sweet History: Sweet Potatoes are old, but still gold

October 25, 2012

Sweet potatoes are dinosaurs of the vegetable world – with one obvious exception – they are not extinct.

Unlike those animals that first appeared during the Triassic period, sweet potatoes have not only been on Earth for eons but they have survived and thrived through the ages.

Nutritionists and dietitians declare these archaic vegetables super foods because they are loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese and other nutrients. 

The earliest records show sweet potatoes were grown since 750 BC in Peru, according to a Library of Congress article written by Jennifer Harber titled “A Sweet Potato History.”

“By the time Christopher Columbus arrived in the ‘New World’ in the late 15th century, sweet potatoes were well-established as food plants in South and Central America,” Harber wrote.

Unlike yams, which were brought from Africa to North America as cargo on slave ships and are botanically different, sweet potatoes are mainstays in American homes, especially those in the South during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Sweet potatoes are packed with personality and easy to prepare – they can be roasted (a preferred method of our ancestors), baked, boiled, fried, steamed, grilled and sautéed.

We eat them alone. We eat them in soups. We idolize them in pies.  We do whatever we want to them, and sweet potatoes obey our every cooking command.

George Washington Carver, who was an American botanist, scientist, educator and inventor, discovered more than 100 uses for the sweet potato, including tapioca, vinegar, medicine, four variations of flour and 14 different varieties of candy.

Regardless of the season or reason, sweet potatoes are wildly popular. There are two kinds of sweet potatoes normally available, according to “On Cooking: Techniques from Expert Chefs,” by Sarah R. Labensky and Alan M. Hause.

The first of the common types has “yellow flesh and a dry, mealy texture,” the authors wrote. This potato is also called a boniato, white or Cuban sweet potato.  The second type is a deeper orange, has a moister flesh and higher sugar content. The latter is also referred to as a red sweet potato.

Each has thick skins, with hues ranging from a faint tan to brownish tan. Labensky and Hause noted, “the dark-skinned sweet potatoes are erroneously labeled yams,” which are less sweet but can be used in place of one another.

Yet, there is no mistaking sweet potatoes are a favored food around the globe, with nearly 7,000 varieties available worldwide.

Glory Foods offers its customers three takes on canned sweet potatoes and canned yams – Glory Foods® Sweet Traditions™ Candied Yams, Glory Foods® Sweet Traditions™ Sweet Potato Casserole and Glory Foods® Sweet Traditions™ Sweet Potatoes.

Pick your favorite, eat up and enjoy the sweet goodness.

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