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It’s Not a Potato
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What do you think is one of the most wholesome vegetables available? North Carolina grows more of this crop than any of the other states. It’s actually related to the Morning Glory flower and is called kumara in New Zealand and camote in Mexico, Chile, and Central America. It’s not even related to the potato family and sometimes is called a yam, though it is not part of the yam family either. It’s the sweet potato.

Packed with fiber and vitamins, the sweet potato is filled with a higher density of nutrients and minerals than most other vegetables. They are rich in complex carbohydrates and contain loads of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese and potassium. When compared with other vegetables in terms of nutritional value, the sweet potato scores almost double in points over the next contender, the potato.

Scientists believe the sweet potato originated in Central and South America where they were domesticated over 5,000 years ago. It apparently was passed along to Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Hawaii and New Zealand by ancient travelers. The first Europeans to enjoy the sweet potato were part of Christopher Columbus’ famous voyages.


China grows more sweet potatoes than all other countries, but Papua New Guinea leads all places in the world for the consumption of this vegetable. Opelousas, Louisiana celebrates the sweet potato with an annual “Yambilee” and Calhoun County, Mississippi proclaims itself as “The Sweet Potato Capital.” Benton, Kentucky holds an annual Tater Day Festival, as does Gleason, Tennessee.

Some people eat the leaves and shoots of the sweet potato, but the most important part is the starchy tuberous roots. In North America, most people eat the vegetable as a candied side dish prepared with brown sugar, marshmallows, or maple syrup and molasses. Many enjoy this at the Thanksgiving holiday in November. But there is far more variety in preparing this vegetable than you might think—sun dried sweet potatoes, soups, French-fried sweet potatoes, pies, and even sweet potato butter.

The consumption of the sweet potato in North America has actually dropped significantly from about 20 lbs. per person per year in the 1920s, to about three pounds today. 

For a food with such high nutritive value, which is readily available, stores easily, and is delicious, nothing can beat the power packed sweet potato!

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By Curtis Rittenour. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.



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