Sweet potatoes say cheese
Play up that sweetness or counter it with spices — your choice. Karen Barnaby explains.
sweet potatoes were a vegetable i came to enjoy in adulthood. They weren’t served at my family dinner table and when served elsewhere they were terrifyingly sweet.
There were marshmallows on top, or heaps of brown sugar and pecans.
marshmallows were for rice Krispies squares, roasting on the end of a stick or bobbing on hot chocolate. To experience them on top of a vegetable was just plain weird because dessert is supposed to come later, not along with the meat.
no offence meant to all marshmallows-on-sweet-potato-lovers out there. marshmallow on!
a large part of the world’s population enjoys them as a sweet. They are popular in mexico, southeast asia, China, Japan and the philippines as a candied or roasted snack purchased from street vendors.
The “yams” we grow here are actually sweet potatoes. yams are native to africa and sweet potatoes to the americas. “yam” might be used because of the slave trade. seeing the sweet potato, african slaves might have called it “nyami,” the name of a similar plant they were used to eating.
While we’re on the subject, the purple filipino yam known as “ube” is not a sweet potato. it is a yam.
yams belong to the dioscorea family and sweet potatoes to Convolvulaceae. The leaves and stems of the plant are edible. The young leaves can be eaten raw, the older ones cooked like kale or beet greens.
When i started cooking sweet potatoes, i discovered that for my tastes, they needed a counterpoint.
blue cheese was great and so was parmesan. Crystallized or fresh ginger and middle eastern or indian spicing was also very good. and i was good with adding a drizzle of maple syrup or honey to coax up the sweetness a little without making it cloying.
it’s a very exciting time in sweet potato land because of the varieties available.
in my local asian produce store i found Hannah sweet potatoes, Jewel “yams,” Japanese sweet potatoes (crimson skin with pale yellow flesh), okinawa (tan skin, magenta flesh), stokes purple (purple skin and flesh), and another purple variety that was called Japanese.
unlike the potato, the entire sweet potato plant is edible from the leaves and flowers to the vines. since i have an abundance of them, i’ll cook some my favourite way, simply roasted with coconut oil and salt. sweet, with a slightly chewy and crisp crust as they come out of the oven, they are best eaten while standing over the baking sheet.
Many different varieties of sweet potatoes are available these days, along with the old familiar one (second from left).