The sweet potato (La patate douce)
I really appreciate having a nutritious meal with sweet potatoes and fresh vegetables. From mashed to roasted, I love how versatile sweet potatoes are. Unfortunately, it has not always been like this. Although sweet potatoes were part of my mum’s cooking, I never was a big fan when I was living in Guadeloupe Archipelago. As far as I can remember, my mum constantly strove to make my siblings and I enjoying this root vegetable. Let’s find out more about this tuberous root.
Origin & Description
The sweet potato is native to Central and South America and has been grown for over five thousand years. Sweet potatoes are cultivated throughout tropical and warm temperate regions wherever there is sufficient water to support their growth. The sweet potato plant has simple heart-shaped leaves that are pale or dark green-coloured. The flowers are white or lavender. The most important part of the plant are the roots called tubers. The tuber is edible, sweet, rich in starch, fibre, vitamins, and minerals as well as varying in size, shape, taste and texture. Sweet potatoes’ flesh can be white, yellow, orange, red or purple, while skins’ colours range from yellow, pink, orange, red to brown. When I was living in Guadeloupe Archipelago, I have always seen my mum cooking the white-fleshed and red-skinned variety. Here in the UK, the one with orange flesh and pink skin is quite popular.
Sweet potatoes tubers can be: Baked, boiled, fried, grilles, juiced, microwaved, pureed, steamed and even toasted. There is a current trend with sweet potato toasts to enjoy with your favourite topping. Apparently, white, or pale yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes are less sweet and moist than those with red, pink or orange flesh. This has made me understand why my mum always cooked sweet potatoes as a savoury dish such as: Boiled sweet potato with fish, sweet potato fries, or sweet potato gratin. On the other hand, sweet potatoes are widely used in sweet dishes such cakes, cookies, pies, pudding, and others delicious desserts. Nowadays, lots of products are made from sweet potato including: flour, bread, cereals, crisps, juices, noodles, and candy. The sweet potatoes’ leaves can also be eaten as a vegetable, boiled or in salads.
Nutrients and Health benefits
Sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, and dietary fibre.
The orange and red-fleshed forms of sweet potato are particularly high in beta-carotene.
All varieties of sweet potatoes are good sources of vitamins including:
- Vitamin A which is a powerful antioxidant, and is linked to anti-aging benefits, cancer prevention and the maintenance of good eyesight.
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
They also have minerals:
- Magnesium, which is good for artery, blood, bone, muscle, and nerve health.
- Manganese, which plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation.
- Potassium, which is helpful for your heart, as it lowers blood pressure by maintaining fluid balance.
Sweet potatoes have a low glycaemic index which will help steady the levels of blood sugar.
When visiting Guadeloupe Archipelago, you will have many opportunities to taste sweet potatoes. Whether it is the famous sweet potato gratin, the sweet potato jam or sweet potato bread, the vegetable is fully part of the culinary heritage.