October 9th, 2017

Sweet on Sweet Potatoes

by Yael Ben-Chaim

As summer farmers market season comes to a close, one hearty vegetable is making an appearance, preparing to shine its way through colder grounds and darker nights. Sweet potatoes are a cold weather crop and are abundant at Maryland farmers markets. Sweet potatoes are sometimes mistakenly identified as “yams,” a different root vegetable common in West Africa, rarely found in the United States. Both sweet potatoes and “true” yams are root vegetables; however, yams exhibit a striking difference from a sweet potato, with their blackish or brown exterior and white or purple interior. Sweet potatoes are a golden orange on the inside, with a light brownish-tan exterior. As a root vegetable, sweet potatoes are protected underground from harsh winter frosts and winds. Peak sweet potato season in Maryland is from September-March.


The nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes are tied to their vibrant color. As an orange vegetable, sweet potatoes are full of beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. Beta carotene is crucial for eye health as it allows receptors in the retina to absorb light.


The skin of the sweet potato should be firm and smooth. Bumps, small cuts or scratches and discoloration are normal, but avoid potatoes that are deeply bruised.


Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, and ventilated area away from strong heat or light. When stored properly, sweet potatoes can last for several weeks. Check your sweet potato for soft spots or sprouts, which are signs of spoilage.

Preparation and Pairing:

Sweet potatoes lend themselves to both savory and sweet recipes. For an easy treat, poke holes with a fork into a sweet potato and baked wrapped in tin foil at 400°F. Top with butter and cinnamon for a dessert-like snack, or with olive oil and rosemary or a savory treat.  These baked sweet potato chips are low cost (and no guilt) replacement for store-bought potato chips. Mashed sweet potatoes with rosemary deserve a place at your holiday table!


Roasted Sweet potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon from The Cooking Channel


4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

¼ cup honey

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cinnamonSalt and ground black pepper, to taste

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Lay the sweet potatoes out in a single layer on a roasting tray. Drizzle the oil, honey, cinnamon, salt and pepper over the potatoes. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes in oven or until tender.

Take sweet potatoes out of the oven and transfer them to a serving platter. Drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil.


Photo Credit: Yuri Huta

About the Author Yael Ben-Chaim

Yael is a food-lover, interested in local food systems and farmers markets. Follow Yael's blog posts on farmer market produce, recipes, and nutrition information. Yael is an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Maryland Farmers Market Association and is developing a seasonal food education program for MDFMA.