The Spanish conquistadors came to the New World via a new ocean route to India in search of its legendary treasures, but instead they found two continents, including the most valuable and most important food plants – corn, the white potato and the sweet potato.
The sweet potato, considered as the oldest vegetable known to man, has a very rich history. It was domesticated thousands of years ago in Central America and was discovered in different locations - in the West Indies by Christopher Columbus, in Peru by Pizarro and in Central America by Balboa. In 1492, Christopher Columbus brought the prized superfood back to Europe and by the late 16th century the crop reached China and eventually spread throughout Africa, Asia and the Latin America by the 17th and 18th century.
Sweet Potato is a tropical plant and outside the tropics, it can only be grown in warmer climates. It thrives in a well-drained sandy soil and only requires just enough watering and care. This starch rich root has an elongated shape with smooth skin that comes in brown, red and purple. It has a far-reaching adaptability and can propagate quickly from a few roots.
Here's a scoop on sweet potato – It is not a potato and it’s not yam either! It comes from the morning glory (convolvulaceae) family. The white potato comes from a plant family called solanum tuberosum and yam is from dioscoreaceae.
Here are some reasons to love these yummy roots:
- It gives you a good amount of magnesium, which our body needs to maintain a healthy heart, artery, muscles and nerve function. Have some of this if you want to relax. It’s a stress buster too!
- It has a high vitamin B6 content which helps control homocysteine, an amino acid that our bodies get from dietary protein that is known to cause degenerative diseases like dementia and alzheimer’s disease.
- The vitamin D that it contains increases our energy levels and builds strong bones, healthy skin and support the thyroid gland.
- It contains iron minerals, which play an important role in the production of red and white blood cells and improve our resistance to stress.
- It is a great source of potassium that helps our body to perform vital functions like regulating our heartbeat and relaxing muscle contractions.
- It provides our body with natural sugar that are released gradually into our bloodstream ensuring us of a balanced supply of energy to fight fatigue and weight gain.
Sounds good? Here’s one more… The leaves, shoot and stem can all be eaten. In fact the leaves contain more dietary fiber and nutrients than some green-leafy vegetables.
Try this cool idea… puree some sweet potato and add to smoothies and baked goods - very healthy!
Photo by: http://indianapublicmedia.org/eartheats/files/2010/11/Sweet-Potato-940x626.jpg