Our relationship with sweet potatoes used to be a strictly annual affair. We’d trot them out for Thanksgiving, sometimes even with the indignity of a gooey marshmallow topping, and then we’d expect them to be quiet and go away until next year. We never seemed to realize what we were missing.
Things are certainly different now. The once-humble spud is now king of the potato kingdom, showing up in everything from creamy, dreamy breakfast smoothies to namaste-worthy Buddha bowls. And they’re a preferred shareable side when someone at the table wants to eat healthy(ish).
Where they’re grown
Check the label on your next shipment of sweet potatoes, and odds are good they’ll have a North Carolina point of origin. While there are many growers throughout the south and as far afield as California and Hawaii, the Tar Heel State is No. 1 in sweet potato-production, with more than 400 growers supplying nearly 60 percent of the United States’ supply.
Varieties to consider
One of the most possible varieties is the garnet yam, which was cultivated from a Korean variety. They have a dark red skin and a creamy interior. Purple Okinawan sweet potatoes (also known as Stokes Purples) make a striking visual impression as a side dish or grain bowl topper. They’re denser and drier than conventional sweet potatoes, and so cooking time may be a little bit longer.
Pairings and prep
Toasted pecans are a favorite pairing with a sweet potato dish, as are dried cranberries. More adventurous offerings might include trendy mix-ins like sriracha, bourbon – or both. (See recipe below.)
For gluten free and vegan diners, sweet potato “toast” is thin-sliced pre-roasted ovals that can be used as an alternative to bread for mini sandwiches or crostini. Sweet potato pizza crusts have also been popping up as a gluten-free alternative.
If you’ve got a spiralizer in house, consider breaking it out to curl up some sweet potato scroodles. And don’t forget that these tubers are great for desserts, too. They’re showing up in baked goods, ice creams and in sweet potato pie and its many variation.