Tuber Power

October 2010
Written By: 
Blair Knobel

A seasonal staple that’s more than meets the eye

It’s no wonder sweet potatoes are so popular. Consumed worldwide, they may be the most versatile food on the planet, perfect for boiling, roasting, braising, or frying. And though they’re available year-round, local crops shine this time of year, near to the end of their harvest before the first frost, when the air turns cooler and fall festivals abound.

The sweet potato (called “yam” in North America, though yams are a different species) hails from South America—and was domesticated there five thousand years ago. Perhaps because of their relevance to Native Americans who consumed the crop, we devour more sweet potatoes in the autumn months around Thanksgiving than any other time.

The tuber is generally “candied” with butter and brown sugar, or whipped into a casserole with fluffy marshmallows on top. But its sweet, warm-colored flesh can be transformed into cakes, pies, condiments, pancakes, waffles, soups, and salads—or simply enjoyed whole with peanuts and a pat of butter—supremely flavorful, surprisingly healthful (packed with vitamin A and antioxidants), and delightfully local (at a farmers market near you). That’s something to root for.