The winter staple of sweet potatoes offers versatility

The winter staple of sweet potatoes offers versatility

via @StarTribune

Sweet potatoes are the starch that can power you through winter’s icy and bleak night times. Inexhaustible and flexible, most neighborhood sweet potatoes are significantly more tasty and particular than those transported from down south. Because of the shorter developing season, the assortments developed here are smaller, with more extraordinary flavors.

Sweet potatoes are not yams and they are not potatoes. Yams are dull, tasteless tasting roots, local to Africa and Asia. Sweet potatoes are individuals from the Morning Glory plant family and they hail from South and Central America. Potatoes belong to the nightshade family that includes peppers, eggplant and tomatoes. Sweet potato assortments are orange, pale gold, and purple. They can be fat and bulbous or thin and contorted.

Discover neighborhood sweet potatoes in your winter farmers markets. Pick those that are firm to the touch, without scars or wounds, and that are heavy for their size. Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, dim place. Try not to refrigerate or keep in plastic since it will trap dampness and accelerate a decay.

As a general guide, the sweet potato assortments with darker orange tissue are super sweet, soggy and best squashed, cut into wedges, or just prepared and finished with margarine. Those with pale gold or copper skins are somewhat sweet and extremely rich, ideal for adding mass to soups and stews. Dark red and purple Asian assortments are earthier, drier and less sweet, and work pleasantly in blend fries or cubed and cooked.

Roasted sweet potatoes wedges and cubes easy to make. Toss with a little oil and sprinkle with coarse salt, and then spread out on a heating sheet and place in a hot (400-degree) oven until caramelized around the edges, shaking the pan periodically so they don’t stick, around 15 to 25 minutes. Serve these on mixed greens or on pizza; tangle in pasta; fold into curry; or top with a poached or fried egg.

The most ideal approach to prepare sweet potatoes for purees or soup is to cook them whole. This concentrates their sweet nature and is easier than boiling or steaming. Prepared to be tart, hot, spiced or herbed, sweet potato puree makes a fine side to cook chicken, pork or land and the base for a great soup.

Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.”

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