photo by DerfA large edible root, native to tropical areas of the Americas. There are seven major varieties of sweet potatoes: Jersey, Kotobuki (Japanese), Okinawan (Purple), Papa Doc, Beauregard, Garnet, Jewel, and Covington. The last four varieties are regionally called yams in the United States. There is also a traditional kumara in New Zealand (which is red and purple and tastes quite different than regular sweet potatoes), however it is not as widely grown. Two varieties are widely grown in the US: a pale sweet potato and a darker-skinned variety that Americans erroneously call "yam" (a true yam is not related to the sweet potato). True yams are not widely marketed and are seldom grown in the US; and to add to the confusion, canned sweet potatoes are frequently labeled as yams. The pale sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin and a pale yellow flesh. Its flavor is not sweet and when cooked its flesh is dry and crumbly, much like a white baking potato. The darker variety has a thicker, dark orange skin and a vivid orange, sweet flesh that is much moister when cooked.
Sweet potatoes are also known as kumara (or kumera) in New Zealand, batatas or boniatos in South America, umala by Samoans, and 'uala by Native Hawaiians. Kumara was a staple of the Maori in New Zealand prior to the arrival of Europeans, and is popular throughout the Pacific region.
Select sound, firm roots. Handle them carefully to prevent bruising.
Store in a dry, unrefrigerated bin kept at 55-60 degrees F. DO NOT REFRIGERATE; temperatures below 55 degrees F. will result in a hard core and an undesirable taste when cooked. Most sweet potato dishes freeze well.
Wash then saute, bake or boil until slightly soft. If boiled, drain immediately. Sweet potatoes can be fried like regular potatoes to produce chips, or sliced and baked in the oven like hot potato chips or wedges. A conventional steamer can be used to cook sweet potato.
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