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Updated by Jonathan Buring on Jan 14, 2019
Headline for Five Fascinating Facts About Sweet Potatoes
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Five Fascinating Facts About Sweet Potatoes

Move over Valentine’s Day. February is National Sweet Potato Month, a time we show our love for the tasty tubers. To help you prepare, a New Orleans-based international food distributor has compiled a list of five fascinating facts about sweet potatoes.

1

Americans consume around 60 million pounds of sweet potatoes every Thanksgiving.

Sweet potatoes are a traditional holiday feast side dish, with Americans eating close to 60 million pounds each year on Thanksgiving Day alone.

While there are a number of ways to prepare sweet potatoes – bake, boil, French fry and mash, to name just a few – creating a sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows became a Thanksgiving tradition in the early 1900s, after a mass marshmallow manufacturer published the recipe.

2

Sweet potatoes are a key ingredient in food dyes and are even used to color fabric.

Sweet potatoes are not just for eating. They can be used to color everything from food to textiles. The juice extracted from the sweet potato can produce hundreds of shades of dyes, most ranging from light purple to the deepest black.

3

Sweet potatoes are multi-colored.

A sweet potato’s skin can be beige, brown, yellow, orange, red, or purple and its flesh color can vary from white to orange to even pink or purple. The more intense the sweet potato’s color, the sweeter its taste.

4

Sweet potato vines grow sideways.

The sweet potato is a vine that grows horizontally on the ground and can be as high as a foot and as long as six feet. The parts we like to eat are its storage roots that are arranged in clusters of oval, oblong, or elliptical spheres.

5

Sweet potatoes are not actually potatoes.

While both potatoes and sweet potatoes are nutritious energy rich tubers that originated in Central and South America, they are not related. Sweet potatoes aren’t actually potatoes. While potatoes belong to the perennial nightshade Solanum tuberosum family, sweet potatoes are from a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the bindweed or morning glory family, Convolvulaceae.

6

Sweet potatoes pre-date Christopher Columbus and Captain Cook.

Christopher Columbus encountered sweet potatoes on his first voyage to the new world in 1492. He was such a big fan of the vegetable that had grown in Central America for millennia, that he took a batch home to Europe , where it became popular as an aphrodisiac.

Polynesians in the South Pacific were growing sweet potatoes as early as 1200 A.D. In fact, the native South American vegetable was the principle food of the aboriginal Maoris when Captain Cook first reached New Zealand in 1769. How the sweet potato got to Polynesia is still a mystery. One theory is that Portuguese sailors brought it with them on their explorations. Another is that Polynesians made their way across the Pacific Ocean to the Andes in large, grabbed some sweet potatoes while they were there and eventually brought the delicious tuberous root vegetable home.