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Sweetpotatoes 101


“Sweetpotato” Is Only One Word? Really?

On this one we admit there’s not a lot of agreement. But we believe that “sweetpotato” is correct because—as California Sweetpotatoes points out—a sweetpotato is not, in fact, a sweet potato. It’s not a potato at all, but botanically an entirely different vegetable, gifted with a totally different set of better-for-you nutrients, amazing taste, and incredible versatility. So sweetpotatoes—one word—is not only grammatically correct, but it helps make the distinction.

There are dozens of different sweetpotatoes, ranging from white and mild to deep red and super sweet. There are even purple sweetpotatoes! Many of the more unusual varieties are grown in small quantities—and sometimes you can find them at farmers markets—but only about twelve types are grown commercially. Of those, these are the most popular grown in California:

Jewell: An orange skinned, orange-fleshed sweetpotato, the Jewell is a classic. When cooked, the meat is super-sweet and very moist.

Garnet: A red skinned, orange-fleshed sweetpotato. Like the Jewell, when cooked, the meat is very sweet and moist.

Jersey: With pale yellow-gold skin and pale yellow or white flesh, the Jersey is the most potato-like of sweetpotatoes. The meat is only mildly sweet and a little more firm and dry than orange-fleshed varieties.

Oriental: The Oriental has purple skin and pale yellow or white flesh. Like the Jersey, its meat is only mildly sweet and a little more firm and dry.

Which Type Should I Use?
So how do you choose? A couple of tips. Orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes will add a little more sweetness to whatever you’re cooking. Since they’re a little more moist, they’re also slightly wetter when mashed. And for the same reason, if you’re looking for browning or crispness, they might need a little more space in the skillet or on the baking sheet.

Yellow/white-fleshed sweetpotatoes, because they’re a little less sweet and they cook up a little more dry, are a good choice when you’re looking for browning or crispness, like in sweetpotato fries or shredded sweetpotato hash. Because of those qualities, they also make a good substitute for regular potatoes.

All that said, the differences aren’t huge. It’s a rare recipe that isn’t great using either orange-fleshed or yellow/white-fleshed sweetpotatoes—or a combination of the two!

How To Pick a Perfect Sweetpotato: Choose sweetpotatoes that are firm and dry, with no signs of decay. If you’ll be cooking them whole, pick sweetpotatoes that are uniformly sized and shaped so they’ll cook evenly.

How To Store Sweetpotatoes: Once you get them home, store your sweetpotatoes in a cool, dry place, ideally with some ventilation. About 55°F is perfect. Don’t store them in the refrigerator—it can produce a hard core at the center and unpleasant flavors. It’s always better to store them warmer than colder.

Don’t wash your sweetpotatoes until you plan to use them. And for the best texture and flavor, use them within a week or two.

Basic Cooking Instructions: For baked sweetpotatoes, preheat the oven to 400°F. Pierce the sweetpotatoes a few times with a fork or knife, and then bake until tender, 40 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the sweetpotatoes. For quicker baked sweetpotatoes, microwave on high for 4 minutes, then bake at 400°F until tender, 10 to 20 minutes.

Sweetpotaoes can also be roasted, steamed, boiled, sautéed, microwaved, mashed, grilled or pureed. Visit www.casweetpotatoes.com and click on “cooking info” for more information on the many ways to prepare sweetpotatoes. In addition, there are many ways to include sweetpotatoes in your meals and snacks. We have a recipe to share with you here and you can find many more on the website by clicking on “recipes.”

The California Difference:
Unique growing conditions and special handling set California sweetpotatoes apart.

Warm, Dry Climate: California’s sunshine and warm, dry climate mean their sweetpotato vines are lush and fast-growing, with a longer growing season allowing year-round supply.

Sandy Soils: Their sweetpotatoes are grown in a unique part of California’s San Joaquin Valley, where long-ago riverbeds left behind sandy soil. This soil naturally resists insects and weeds, reducing their dependence on pesticides.

Cured on the Vine: Because of their climate, they can cure California sweetpotatoes right in the soil, while they’re still on the vine, rather than curing them after harvest in storage sheds. Not only is vine-curing naturally chemical-free—it also increases their sweetpotatoes’ shelf life.

A Hands-on Approach: California sweetpotatoes are selected, planted, sorted, sized, and packed by hand. Getting up close and personal with each sweetpotato ensures it meets their high standards. Plus, using less machinery minimizes scarring and scratching—so the sweetpotatoes are not only prettier, they’re fresher longer.

Ask Your Retailer: California sweetpotatoes are available nationwide, but not always in your local store. If you want the best, ask your retailer to carry sweetpotatoes from California.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef, pork, chicken, or turkey
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
12 ounces orange- or yellow/white-fleshed sweetpotatoes, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 2 1/4 cups)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup beef or chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
4 to 6 hamburger buns, split
4 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 to 1/2 cup shaved, grated, or shredded Parmesan cheese


  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the ground meat and cook, breaking it up, for about 1 minute. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the sweetpotato, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is browned and vegetables are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
  • Stir in tomatoes (with their juices), broth, tomato paste, and soy sauce, scraping up any browned bits in the skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the onion and sweetpotatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Arrange a rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat. Arrange the buns, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the cornstarch mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens, 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Arrange bottoms of buns on plates. Top with the Sloppy Joe mixture, cheese, and bun tops and serve.

Information provided by Californinia Sweetpotatoes, www.casweetpotatoes.com