Sweet potatoes are loved in many places around the world. They are extensively grown in the Southeast United States and elsewhere. Although people love to eat them, they are also a vegetable that is quite interesting in a lot of ways. Here are just 13 interesting facts about sweet potatoes that most people don’t know.
* Sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family. The plant is a vine and though the tubers are the parts that are normally eaten, young leaves and shoots are also edible.
* Sweet potatoes have been grown and eaten for a very long time. In fact, it is said that the sweet potato is the oldest root vegetable in the world. It has been grown and eaten for at least 5,000 years.
* Sweet potatoes originated in Central America, where they are still grown. Columbus is credited with introducing sweet potatoes to Europe and they are now widely grown. No other root crop is more commonly grown in developing nations than the sweet potato. It is a very important crop in Okinawa and Japan.
* Although we know the plant as the sweet potato, it is also known as camote in Mexico, Central America, Peru, and Chile. It is called kamote in the Philippines. It is known as batata in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Venezuela. Batata is also the word we get “potato” from.
* Other names for sweet potatoes are:
Fan shu in China
Bataat in Holland
Patate douce in France
Ko gu ma in Korean
Batata doce in Portugal
Man thet in Thailand
Khoai mon in Vietnam
Ubi jalar in Indonesia
* Even though sweet potatoes look similar to potatoes and the main crop is the tuber, also like potatoes, sweet potatoes aren’t closely related to potatoes. Potatoes are in the nightshade family while sweet potatoes are in the morning glory family.
* Yams look even more like sweet potatoes than regular potatoes do. However, yams and sweet potatoes aren’t related. Yams originated in Africa, which is interestingly now among the world leaders in sweet potato production.
* China is easily the world leader for the production of sweet potatoes. They produce over 70 million tons of sweet potatoes each year. Nigeria, Tanzania, Indonesia, Uganda, and Ethiopia are next in terms of total yearly production, producing between 2 and 4 million tons each. The world production of sweet potatoes is a little more than 105 million tons yearly. Put in perspective, that is the equivalent weight of roughly 700,000 diesel locomotive engines!
* The sweet potato is the official state vegetable of North Carolina.
* Sweet potatoes are very high in starch and sugar. They are also high in manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A, B5, and B6. They are very high in beta-Carotene, which is an antioxidant. Sweet potatoes contain over four times more sugar than regular potatoes.
* In Japan, sweet potato juice is fermented to produce an alcoholic beverage called shochu.
* Sweet potato tubers can be colorful. the colors of the flesh include white, purple, red, pink, yellow, violet, and tan. In fact, the juice, mixed with lime juice, has been used to dye cloth.
* Although most people write the common name as “sweet potatoes”, the technically correct way of writing the name in one word: sweetpotatoes.
Whether you love sweet potatoes, dislike them, or have never tasted them, you should now know substantially more about sweet potatoes than you did a few minutes ago. Who said that learning new information can’t be interesting?