Sweet pota­toes say cheese

Play up that sweet­ness or counter it with spices — your choice. Karen Barn­aby ex­plains.

Tillsonburg News - - LIFE - barn­aby­van­sun@gmail.com

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.

Pho­tos: Karen Barn­aBy

Many dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of sweet pota­toes are avail­able th­ese days, along with the old fa­mil­iar one (sec­ond from left).

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