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Know Your Vegetables: Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are the ultimate comfort food.They are filling, dense, delicious, and packed with nutrients! Despite their humble appearance, this root vegetable, has a lot to be proud of! Sweet potatoes have been around for quite some time. Aside from their numerous health benefits, sweet potatoes have a rich and expansive history. We’ve detailed that below, along with lots of other interesting facts about this versatile vegetable. Here is everything you could ever want to know about this wonderful and flavorful veggie!

History

Sweet Potato History-Know Your Vegetables by Green Blender

These delicious, nutrient-dense root vegetables are one of the oldest around, with scientists believing that the first sweet potato was domesticated thousands of years ago in Central America by Christopher Columbus. After his first voyage to the Americas in 1492, Columbus took sweet potatoes back home to Spain, where these comforting vegetables were met with the appropriate love and appreciation they richly deserved! They were soon exported to England, where they were equally loved and eagerly devoured. Interesting to note: Henry VIII especially loved them in pies. The crop was introduced to China in the late 16th century and spread through Asia, Africa, and Latin America during the 17th and 18th centuries.

How They Grow

Growing Sweet potatoes-know your vegetables by Green Blender

Sweet potatoes come in two forms: vining and bush varieties. Both types thrive in the hot summer sun and are relatively easy to grow. They are a tropical vine, and are sensitive to the cold, so it is best to plant them during the summer. To begin, it is best to plant slips, which are the green shoots from a mature sweet potato. Slips can be purchased at a garden store or nursery.

Before the slips are planted, it is recommended to till the area of the garden where they will be planted to a depth of 8-10 inches. Once tilled raised beds of 6 to 8 inches tall and about 12 inches wide should be created. The slips are planted in the bed and should be about 12-18 inches apart. It is best to plant the slips deep enough to cover the roots and about 1/2 inch of the stem. Sweet potatoes should be watered regularly and should be ready to harvest within 3-4 months after planting.

Nutrition

Nutrition Sweet Potato-know your vegetables by Green Blender

Sweet potatoes may taste like dessert, but don’t let that fool you, they are extremely nutritious! In fact, they are one of the best sources of vitamin A, with a large sweet potato containing more than 100% of the daily recommended vitamin A intake. Sweet potatoes are also packed with calcium, potassium and are a rich source of vitamins C, B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and cartenoids. All that and they are fat free to boot!

Benefits

sweet potato benefits-know your vegetables by Green Blender

As one of the best sources of vitamin A, sweet potatoes support healthy vision, are an anti-inflammatory, and aid in protecting against cancer. Their high fiber content supports healthy digestion. Sweet potatoes reduce the threat of degenerative diseases with their high vitamin B6 content, which is known to decrease homocysteine, a chemical in our body linked to degenerative diseases.

As an excellent source of vitamin C, sweet potatoes boost immunity, help us build and maintain strong bones, and keep skin looking healthy and radiant. As if that isn’t enough, thanks to their vitamin D and iron content, these wonder vegetables keep our energy up and lift our spirits. And their magnesium richness not only keeps our heart, bones, nerves and muscles strong, but it also helps us cope with stress. Strong, healthy, happy and stress-free, sweet potatoes do it all!

Fun Facts

Sweet Potato Fun Facts-know your vegetables by Green Blender

  • Although the orange variety is the most common in the United States, sweet potatoes also come in white, yellow, pink and purple varieties.
  • They made the “Clean 15” which is a list comprised of 15 fruits and vegetables that are least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues.
  • You can eat the whole thing, stems, leaves and all!
  • North Carolina is the number one producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, harvesting over 4 billion pounds in 1989. They even established the sweet potato as the official state vegetable in 1995.
  • Even though your local supermarket may label yams and sweet potatoes interchangeably, they are two totally different vegetables from two different botanical families.
  • George Washington grew sweet potatoes on his farm at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Craving sweet potatoes? Join the Green Blender Smoothie Club! We’ve got tons of great recipes featuring this perfect root vegetable.