Smith County Master Gardeners
During the Revolutionary War, sweet potatoes were the main source of nourishment for homesteaders and for soldiers. Within the vegetable kingdom, their tuberous roots are among the most nutritious of all foods. A serving size of one-half cup of baked sweet potato provides 90 calories per serving, but zero calories from fat - unless you like to insert many slices of real butter into the baked flesh of your hot potato, as most people do.
A perfect sweet potato has skin without any wrinkles, bruises, sprouts or signs of decay. When you buy, look very carefully at each potato. A decayed spot can already have caused the entire potato to take on a tainted flavor and odor. It may already have begun the infection of all the others near it. Under that circumstance, even a perfect potato can rapidly start spoiling. Ideal storage for potatoes is a dry, cool (55- to 60-degree) place, such as a cellar, pantry or garage. Properly stored, sweet potatoes will keep for a month or longer. Do not try to store raw potatoes in a refrigerator; the temperature is too low for them. They will develop a hard core and their taste will become somewhat bitter.
Wash them only when you’re ready to cook, otherwise moisture from the washing can quickly induce the onset of spoilage. Do not peel them yet. Check again that each one is perfectly clean, then set them in a pan that you place in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until their flesh is very tender. Let them cool moderately. Since most of the nutrients of a sweet potato are right next to its skin, remove the skins only after the potatoes have cooked and somewhat cooled. At that point, skins are easier to remove from the flesh, and nutrients will better remain on what you are going to eat.
As a main dish or prepared as a dessert, the sweet potato is a nutritious and economical food. One baked sweet potato (a 3 1/2-ounce serving) provides about twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. This nutritious vegetable provides 42 percent of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C, 6 percent of the RDA for calcium, 10 percent of the RDA for iron and 8 percent of the RDA for thiamine for healthy adults. It is low in sodium and is a good source of fiber and other important vitamins and minerals. A complex carbohydrate food source, it provides beta carotene, which may be a factor in reducing the risk of certain cancers.