I thought I knew what sweet potatoes tasted like. In my taste memory, sweet potatoes were dense, mealy, and slightly sweet. Yet, despite the millions of meals I’ve eaten and the multitudes of hours spent reading about food, I was mistaken. My outdated perspective on the sweet potato got a serious overhaul recently, when I tasted a baked yam, fresh from the oven. I was dumbfounded by its complex flavors, natural sweetness, and its unadulterated texture; it was creamy like a savory pudding.
I’ve had my share of sweet potato fries, but have never tasted anything like this.
How could something so simple–a yam baked in an oven for an hour and sprinkled with salt and pepper–taste so complex? I did a taste-double take. Wait-a-minute, I said to myself, didn’t this unadulterated and undeniably delectable sweet potato cost only forty-cents?
Sweet potato (or yam as it is commonly called in some parts of the states) is a distant relative of the potato. Native to South America, the sweet potato is thought to have originated from the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico and the mouth of the Orinoco River in Venezuela. The tuber’s color ranges in shades between yellow, reddish-orange, white and purple.
Besides complex carbohydrates, sweet potatoes are rich in nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and vitamin B6. A baked yam is simply decadent with a smidgen of butter and just a pinch of salt and pepper. At approximately 90 calories per serving, the sweet flavor and rich texture will make you feel like you’re eating something far more sinful.
According to one statistic, sweet potato consumption in the US is down dramatically. In the 1920’s the average American ate 13 pounds of sweet potatoes a year. Now, the average American eats less than two pounds in 12 months.
Here’s to changing that statistic
With economic times such as they are, the low-priced sweet potato is a great tasting way to fill your belly and save some serious money. At my local farmers’ market I bought four large yams for just $1.20. Not many meals taste as good as my thirty-cent yam.
For a great snack or a no-prep meal
Wrap sweet potato in tin foil and bake, for about an hour in a 350-degree oven. Unwrap and serve with a touch of butter. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake off a number of sweet potatoes at once. Save uneaten potatoes for a great side dish for another meal. Mash with a fork and reheat the yams with a touch of milk (cream or soy milk will also work), a pinch of nutmeg, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper for under 15-minute mashed potatoes.