This month we celebrate the benefits of the sweet potato. Potatoes are part of the root of their plant and are primarily harvested in the fall- soon after the seasonal frost begins. Although many people enjoy eating this sweet orange vegetable, it is unknown to most that the young leaves and stems of the plant are also edible (unlike other potato plants). What is known is that sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America and are one of the oldest recognized vegetables in the human diet. Its remains have been discovered as far back as 600CE (common era), currently we are in 2016CE, that was over 1,416 years ago!
Although we are eating the same vegetable as our ancestors of 1,000 years back, we have definitely learned to cook it in many more ways. Today sweet potatoes are mashed, steamed, made in soups, or even grilled/baked (loaded sweet potato). An American favorite is sweet potato casserole during Thanksgiving Dinner.
A common question asked is “Are sweet potatoes and yams the same?”. The answer is no. In some cases, the confusion has formed due to similarities between the appearance of sweet potatoes and yams and in other cases the confusion may be caused by labeling advertisements. Around the 1920’s farmers began calling their products yams to stand out, and as can be seen the term stuck.
Sweet potatoes bring along a super punch of important nutrients, including Vitamin C, D, B6, B12, and the minerals iron, calcium and magnesium! If that’s not enough already, just one cup of this root contains 377% of our Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin A! That’s amazing! So many benefits come along with all these vitamins and minerals, like anti-inflammatories and blood sugar regulation.
Q: Why shouldn’t you tell a secret on a farm?
A: Because the potatoes have eyes, the corn has ears, and the beans stalk.
Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls with Green Sauce
Sweet potatoes are a personal favorite, but you could use any veg you have in addition or instead of them. This could easily become vegan by making a few substitutions in the sauce: use agave instead of honey, silken tofu instead of the yogurt, or leave out the yogurt altogether. You could easily turn these into actual burritos, or serve with smaller tortillas on the side. To the cilantro haters: I’m very sorry, and parsley could be subbed. One more note: jalapeños can greatly vary in spiciness, so taste a little bit if you are worried about adding too much heat.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- 1.5 lbs of sweet potatoes (this was 2 for me)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- heaping 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- heaping 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 3 cups of black beans and their cooking liquid (or 2 15oz cans)
- 1/2 cup of red onion (a quarter of a large one for me, with a bit of the remainder chopped for topping)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
Green Yogurt Sauce
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 small jalapeño, or half a large (seeds removed if you don’t want the spice)
- 1 cup cilantro leaves and stems
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- juice from 1 lime (mine was 3 tablespoons)
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek would work)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- cooked brown rice
- chopped red onion or scallion
- hot sauce
- chopped avocado
- chopped jalapeño
Preheat the oven to 425F. Scrub the sweet potatoes (no need to peel though), and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Put the coriander and cumin seeds in a small dry pan and heat on medium. Let them toast for about 5 minutes, until they start to color and you can smell them. Let them cool for a minute and then grind in a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder if you have one, but not your coffee grinder). Toss the sweet potatoes in oil, ground spices, chili powder, and a pinch of salt. Pop them in the oven and roast for 25 minutes.
Chop the onion and then heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and saute uncovered for 5 minutes until slightly softened. While it is sauteing mince the garlic clove. After 5 minutes add the garlic clove and saute for 1 minute. Add the beans, cover, and bring to a simmer. Remove the lid, and left simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened. Finish with some salt and the teaspoon of vinegar.
Start the motor of your food processor and drop in the garlic clove. Let it get pulverized, then drop in the jalapeño until it is equally pulverized. Wipe down the sides with a spatula, then add the cilantro. Run until the cilantro is minced, then add the cumin, lime juice, yogurt, olive oil, honey, and a pinch of salt. Run until it is a smooth, green sauce. Alternatively, you can mince the garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro, then whisk together with the rest of the ingredients.
Serve bowls with rice, topped with beans and sweet potato. Let diners add additional toppings and sauce to their liking.