What’s Sweet in February? Sweet Potatoes
Get a load of these spudtacular superfoods
By Maddie Bane
Sweet potatoes are so much more than just that bright (and delicious) orange-colored dish covered in marshmallows that you see on the table during holiday dinners. They’re packed full with antioxidants and actually have a pretty rooted history in the Lowcountry, dating back to the early 17th century. European settlers on and around Edisto Island cultivated so many sweet potatoes that it knocked cotton out of first place for agricultural popularity. Today, Darlington hosts its annual South Carolina Sweet Potato Festival on the second weekend of October. But you don’t have to wait eight months and drive three hours to enjoy these spudtacular superfoods. Thanks to our amazing grocery stores and markets, fresh sweet potatoes are always available.
What do you call a potato wearing glasses? A spec-tater. Coincidentally enough, sweet potatoes, specifically the purple ones, actually contain a group of antioxidants that can improve and benefit eye health. They are also rich in many nutrients and minerals, such as fiber, iron, calcium, and vitamins B and C, but this can vary depending on its color. A traditional sweet potato is the richest in vitamin A, while a purple one contains a higher amount of anthocyanins – a fancy word to describe the chemical that creates its purple color, which is constantly researched for its potential to prevent certain diseases.
How to grow them
Sweet potatoes grow best in a light, sandy soil with the “slips” (shoots that are from a mature sweet potato) planted roughly one and a half feet apart. This vegetable is best to plant after the last frost, as it thrives in a warmer soil. Be sure to watch out for deer – one of their favorite snacks is a sweet potato vine.
Where to buy them
You’ll be able to find this veggie year ’round at your preferred grocery store, or you can take a trip to your favorite farmers market and support your local vendors when they are in season (Sept.-Oct.).
Where to order them
Frankie Bones Crab Cake Dinner: Two pecan crusted crab cakes, whipped sweet potatoes, apple slaw, local honey drizzle and creole honey mustard sauce.
Ruby Lee’s Sweet Potato Pecan Pie: Mashed sweet potatoes and a caramelized pecan topping make this a special treat.
Poseidon Naked Beach: Charcoal grilled salmon, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, cracked pepper, sea salt, plain baked sweet potato and roasted vegetables.
How to use them
This versatile vegetable can be consumed in numerous ways. However you prefer them — boiled, steamed, baked, fried, or even raw — sweet potatoes will remain fibrous, delicious and very filling. You can toss some in your salad, on top of your taco, or puree them into a delicious soup.
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen – Sweet potato fried egg
1 large sweet potato
Handful cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon green onion, chopped
Directions  Heat oven to 400 degrees, and cut sweet potato in half, lengthwise. Place both halves on a lined baking sheet, face side up.  Drizzle on olive oil and add salt and pepper and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Once tender, scrape out a little bit of the inside – enough for a cracked egg to fit comfortably.  Once the egg is cracked inside, add desired amount of cherry tomatoes on top.  Cook for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, and top off with the chopped green onion.
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen – Sweet potato oatmeal muffins
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Directions  Mix together sweet potatoes, milk, and egg. Add in butter once smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, spices, and salt. Stir into sweet potato mixture.  Divide batter evenly into a muffin tin and sprinkle some oats on top Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 400 degrees.
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen – Sweet potato chips
2 sweet potatoes, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Directions  Heat oven to 400 degrees and place sweet potato slices on two baking sheets.  Drizzle olive oil and toss until both sides are coated. Be sure none of the slices are overlapping.  Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, flipping halfway. The centers should be soft and the edges should be crispy. Sprinkle with salt.