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Sweet Recipes for Sweet Potatoes

February is National Sweet Potato Month — let’s celebrate!

In 1760 the French settled the town of Opelousas, Louisiana where they discovered the local Indian tribes eating sweet potatoes. The settlers quickly grew to love them and, as fate would have it, there ensued a long, sweet history of cultivation in my home state.

Today, North Carolina leads the US in sweet potato production and China leads the world.

Sweet potatoes are a sweet, starchy root vegetable we call a tuber. Although sharing the name, sweet potatoes are only distant cousins to the actual potato. Around the world, sweet potatoes are baked, sautéed, made into soups and desserts, fried, steamed, boiled and fermented.

Growing up, we loved sweet “patata” (pronounced quickly as pa-tate-a) covered in marshmallows and brown sugar for Thanksgiving and baked up into one of my grandmother’s sweet-“patata” pie recipes, of which she had more than a few.

Here are a few updated ways to enjoy sweet potatoes:

If you are wondering about sweet potato vs. yam, here’s the deal: The two are often confused but, in reality, they are hardly related.

Yams are larger than sweet potatoes and are grown in Africa and Asia. Did you know a yam can grow up to 100 pounds? Probably not, because they are rarely seen in the US.

Because sweet potatoes are often referred to as yams, it’s common and acceptable to use either name.

When shopping, always choose firm sweet potatoes with no soft, decaying spots. The skin should be smooth with no wrinkling.

To keep them fresh, store in a cool dry location such as a pantry or cellar. Sweet potatoes don’t like humidity, so keep them out of the refrigerator.

When stored properly, (around 50 to 60°F), they will last a month or so. If you plan to use within a week, keep them on the kitchen counter. Remember: Don’t wash until ready to use.

Got a sweet tooth for sweet potatoes? What about a favorite recipe? Let me know!