Sweet Potato Facts, Selection, and Storage

Sweet potatoes
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About Sweet Potatoes:

Sweet potatoes are often mistakenly called yams, but they are two different vegetables. Sweet potatoes are the root of a vine in the morning glory family and native to the New World tropics. Its history dates back to 750 B.C. in Peruvian records. Columbus brought the sweet potato to the New World from the island of Saint Thomas. Sweet potatoes are a Southern US favorite, particularly for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Botanical Name:

Ipomoea batatas

Common and Other Names:

sweet potato, yam (in error), patata, patae, susse kartoffel, patata dulce, patate douce, patata dolce, batata doce, batatas

Sweet Potato Availability:

Prime season for fresh sweet potatoes is from October to January but they are available sporadically throughout the year. They are also readily available canned and frozen year-round.

Sweet Potato Selection:

Select tubers with tight, unwrinkled skins with no blemishes or bruises.

Sweet Potato Varieties and Forms:

The yellow or orange tubers are elongated with ends that taper to a point and are of two dominant types. The paler-skinned sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin with pale yellow flesh which is not sweet and has a dry, crumbly texture similar to a white baking potato. The darker-skinned one (most often called yam in error) has a thicker, dark orange skin with vivid orange, sweet flesh and moist texture.

Varieties include Goldrush, Georgia Red, Centennial, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, and Velvet.

Sweet Potato Storage:

Fresh sweet potatoes generally do not store well, except under ideal conditions, and bruised ones rapidly deteriorate. In a dry, dark, cool (55 degrees F.) place, they can last up to three to four weeks.

Plan on using within one week of purchase and do not refrigerate. Cooked sweet potatoes can be stored in the refrigerator in a covered container for 4 to 5 days. To freeze, pack in an airtight container, leaving 1/2-inch headroom and store for 10 to 12 months at 0 degrees F.

Miscellaneous Sweet Potato Information:

Unfortunately, when sweet potatoes begin to go bad, you cannot just cut away the bad part, since the damage will be reflected in the flavor of the entire potato. Canned sweet potatoes are readily available year-round and are often confusingly labeled as yams.

In-depth Sweet Potato Information:

Sweet Potatoes. Find out how to tell the difference between a sweet potato and a true yam.

Sample Sweet Potato Recipes: