Every once in a while I decide it’s time to cook with something that I’ve never used before. Last week, it was a sweet potato. Now I’ve eaten sweet potatoes before, but mostly only in the form of of fries or “tots”, or maybe mashed if I really rack my brain. I know I’ve never cooked with them because for whatever reason, it seemed so daunting! (Not sure why a sweet version of a potato is scarier than a normal potato…) Potatoes are surprisingly not a staple in my kitchen, I rarely use them unless a recipe calls for one. It might have something to do with the fact that I’m always cooking for just myself and rice seems like less effort than potatoes. Mashed potatoes have always been one of my favorite foods, but it’s one of those foods that (for me) is more fun to eat with other people.
Now, sweet potato in hand I was going to stick with the basics and roast it with a little oil and salt. Only when I cut into this sweet potato I was really confused because it wasn’t orange! My only knowledge of sweet potatoes up to this point was that they were a sweet, orange variety of normal potatoes. Obviously there has to be different types of sweet potato, just like russet potatoes look different than Yukon gold, only I’d never considered that possibility before. My finished, roasted product was very good, though only mildly sweet, less than I expected. I couldn’t stop thinking about my non-orange potato though and did a little research on why it was different.
To sum it up: it’s just a different type of sweet potato. Obviously. I whipped out my Food Lovers Companion (an old textbook actually!) and it told me that there are two different kinds of sweet potato, a pale and a darker one with the pale one having a lighter flesh and a less sweet taste while the darker variety is orange and sweeter. The darker variety is mistakenly called a “yam” to distinguish it from the pale variety, even though yams and sweet potatoes aren’t related. This new knowledge made me even more interested in the fact that I’ve only ever seen the orange variety! I wonder if it has something to do with marketing/selling of food products? If all I’ve ever seen is sweet potato tots and fries, or maybe mashed in some Thanksgiving ad, it makes sense that they’d be orange because color sells and differentiates from a normal potato. Even though both the pale and dark sweet potatoes are the most commonly sold, the food industry would have led me to believe that all sweet potatoes were orange had I not decided to buy one at the store last week and cook it myself. Flavor adventuring at its finest!!
So for everyone else that has been living under a rock when it comes to sweet potatoes, you’re welcome! 🙂