Sweet potatoes like to be grown in warmer soil, unlike regular potatoes that prefer cool soil. This is because they are tropical plants, and can become sensitive to cold weather.
The sweet potato is rich in an antioxidant called beta carotene which is effective in raising blood levels of vitamin A. They are very nutritious and high in fibre.
Sweet potatoes can be boiled, steamed, baked or fried and come in a variety of colours; purple, white, red, yellow, pink and violet.
In parts of North America, you will find that sweet potatoes are in-fact called yams. Although, some people get confused as yams are a different species.
Are sweet potatoes different to ordinary potatoes?
As well as having a different nutritional factor, the obvious differences are colour and taste.
An ordinary potato – typically used as mash potato, boiled potato in chips and crisps, alongside the sweet potato – the new rave and sweeter and brighter option.
How long do sweet potatoes take to grow?
Space your sweet potato plants 12 to 18 inches apart in loamy and damp soil with a pH of 5.8 to 6.2.
Improve your native soil before planting by mixing several inches of ages compost or other rich organic matter.
Inspect your garden bed on a regular basis to protect young potato plants from weeds and other unwanted pesticides. Remove any weeds by hand!
You should harvest your sweet potatoes when the ends of the vines begin to turn a shade of yellow.
To avoid injuring any tubers, find the primary crown of the plant you’d like to dig. Use a digging fork to loosen an 18-inch wide circle around the potato.
Pull up the crown and use your hands to gather up all of your sweet potatoes.
You should harvest before frost because the cool temperatures can reduce the quality of potatoes and their ability to keep.
Harvest your sweet potatoes approximately 12 to 16 weeks after planting them.
When do you plant them?
Many gardeners plant sweet potatoes approximately a month after the last spring frost. This air and soil will then be dependably warm.
They should be one of the last things you plant in your garden, so should go in later than tomatoes, peppers and other heat loving plants.
If you need to speed up your soil warming process then you can layer black thermoplastic in your garden bed. It will heat your soil up by as much as 10 degrees.
The plants create great vines which cover the ground well. They are a great crop for beds that adjoin areas that become tiresome or difficult to mow.
Are sweet potatoes better for you than normal potatoes?
Sweet potatoes have become the rave recently. Whether that’s at home or in a restaurant. Many more people are choosing sweet potato over regular potato.
It has even been hailed as a ‘hero’ amongst the health and fitness communities.
If uncooked, there aren’t many differences in terms of energy, carbohydrates, fat or protein. Although, this isn’t vital information, because who eats raw potatoes?!
If you boil sweet potatoes and regular potatoes, peeled and in unsalted water, they show some interesting nutritional differences.
Sweet potatoes contain more carbohydrates, fats and calories than regular boiled potatoes. But regular potatoes have more protein.
So, if you’re looking for more nutrition, then the sweet potato definitely has it. If you’re looking for a lower caloric intake, regular potatoes are the one you should go for.
Are sweet potatoes fattening?
Neither sweet or normal potatoes are fattening when a person eats them as part of a well-rounded diet. You should choose on the basis of whatever one you enjoy more.
Sweet potatoes can have a lower GI and have higher amounts of fibre and sugar.
Regular potatoes are more filling, but they harbour many glycoalkaloids, which in large amounts, can be harmful.
Due to the vitamin and fibre contents, sweet potatoes are consider the healthier choice of the two.
Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
– Improves insulin sensitivity in diabetes
White skin sweet potato has proven to improve insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. The fibre in sweet potatoes has been known to lower the risk of developing diabetes also.
– Maintains healthy blood pressure levels
The levels of salt in sweet potato is so little, that it can keep your blood pressure levels balanced.
– Reduces the risk of cancer
Sweet potatoes have a great source of beta-carotene. This is a powerful anti-oxidant in the body which can reduce the risk of various types of cancer.
– Improves digestion and regularity
The fibre in sweet potato can help prevent constipation and promotes regularity for a healthy digestive tract.
– Protect eye health
Vitamin A, which sweet potatoes are packed with, helps towards healthy eyes. A lack of vitamin A can actually cause blindness. It can make your immune function decrease and increase mortality rates, especially amongst pregnant and lactating women and children.
– Boosts immunity
Sweet potato has enough vitamin C to protect and boost your immune system, as well as enhances iron absorption.
– Reduces inflammation
Sweet potatoes contain chlorine, which is a nutrient that helps with muscle movement, learning and memory. It also supports the nervous system.
Nutritional Facts of Sweet Potatoes
This is based on 3.5 ounces (100grams) of raw sweet potatoes.
Fat: 0.1 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Sugar: 4.2 grams
Protein: 1.6 grams
Carbs: 20.1 grams
The starches included in a boiled sweet potato, make up 53% of the carb content and contains 27 grams of carbs.
Sugars such as fructose, sucrose, glucose and maltose make up 32% of carb content.
The starches are split into 3 categories; Rapidly disgested starch (80%), Slowly digested starch (9%) and Resistant starch (11%).
Cooked sweet potatoes are high in fibre, and a medium sweet potato contains 3.8 grams.
A sweet potato that is of medium size, holds 2 grams of protein. This means it isn’t a great protein source.
Sweet potatoes have a great source of vitamin C, beta carotene and potassium. There are also other vitamins included; Vitamin B6, Pro-vitamin A, Manganese, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B5 and Potassium.
Cooking with Sweet Potatoes
You can roast sweet potatoes to bring out their natural flavours; sweet and creamy.
If you want to roast them, you should wrap them in aluminium foil and place them in the oven for 50-60 minutes.
If you’d like to add a topping, try; olive oil, low fat cottage cheese or greek yogurt, or cinnamon, cumin or curry powder.
Risks of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are high in potassium, and a high intake may not be suitable for people who take beta-blockers.
If you also struggle with kidney problem, too much potassium can cause more harm, so be mindful.
Whether you’re growing for business or pleasure, the sweet potato definitely won’t disappoint.
As they’re fairly easy to grow, you will want to continue growing them year after year and you’ll continue to be amazed at the many ways this great tuber can be used in everyday dishes.