Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Harvest of the Month | SierraSun.com

Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Harvest of the Month

This month, TTUSD elementary school students will taste and explore sweet potatoes in the Harvest of the Month program. The humble sweet potato is a nutrition power house with an interesting history. Is it a “sweet potato” or “yam?” Both names can be a bit misleading. The sweet potato is not a potato, or even a distant cousin. The orange-fleshed sweet potato that we commonly refer to as a “yam” is actually a sweet potato. True yams are native to Africa, are dry and starchy and are tubers, like regular potatoes.

Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, originated in Central and South America, have a sweet, moist flesh and are roots. The confusion began more than 100 years ago when orange flesh sweet potatoes were introduced into the southern United States. Producers and shippers wanted to distinguish them from the more traditional white-flesh types. They called them “yams,” from the African word “nyami” and the name stuck.

Sweet potatoes are the oldest vegetable known to man. Sweet potatoes relics date back to prehistoric times and some scientists believe sweet potatoes were eaten by dinosaurs. Sweet potatoes were domesticated as an agricultural crop in Central and South America nearly 5,000 years ago and were brought to Europe by Spanish and Portuguese explorers. Sweet potatoes quickly be came an important dietary stable in Europe. They were on the menu at the first Thanksgiving and they were a main source of nutrition for early homesteaders in the United States and soldiers during the American Revolution and Civil war.

Sweet potatoes even played a role in the history of George Washington Carver. In the late 1800s, Carver was an African American professor who revolutionized southern agriculture with the development of crop rotation. George Washington Carver discovered when farmers rotated their cotton crops with crops that added nitrogen to the soil (such as peanuts, peas, soy beans and sweet potatoes) they could increase their yields. Successful crop rotation meant a glut of sweet potatoes began entering the marketplace. Carver is credited with creating about 100 new products from sweet potatoes, including postage glue, ink, synthetic rubber, flour and textile dyes.

These tasty and easy-to-cook vegetables are an excellent source of beta carotene, a type of Vitamin A important for healthy vision, heart health, immune function and healthy skin. In fact it takes nine cups of broccoli to provide the same amount of beta carotene as one medium sweet potato! Sweet potatoes are also a good source of fiber, Vitamin B-6 and potassium. At home, replace baked potatoes and fries with baked sweet potatoes and sweet potato fries ” your kids will love them! Sweet potatoes can also be added to soups, stews and stir-frys. The dark orange sweet potatoes taste similar to carrots when raw. Serve them with a low fat dip for a crunchy snack.

Choose firm, dark, dry, smooth sweet potatoes without blemishes. Do not store in the refrigerator, but store in a dry, cool place like a pantry or garage. Do not wash until you are ready to cook them; moisture will make them spoil faster. At room temperature, sweet potatoes should be used in about a week. If stored at cooler temperatures (55-60 F) they will keep for a month or longer.

Julia Walter, the Executive chef at the River Ranch Lodge has shared her recipe for Sweet Potato Bisque. Julia studied at Johnson and Wales University in Charleston, S.C. She moved to the Truckee area in 2002 and was formerly the Chef de Cuisine at Moody’s Bistro and Lounge. What a wonderful recipe for a cold winter night!

” Maria Martin, MPH, RD is a member of the Nutrition Coalition and a Wellness Dietitian. The Nutrition Coalition is funded and supported by the Tahoe Forest Health System through the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance. For more information, contact us at 587-3769, ext. 228 or mmartin@tfhd.com.

2 leeks, tops removed, sliced and cleaned

1 celery stalk, diced

1/2# butter

1 cup flour

1 cup white wine

3 large sweet potatoes, chopped

1 T cinnamon

1 T allspice

1 T nutmeg

1 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in medium stockpot. Add leeks and celery. Cook over medium heat until soft.-

2. Add flour and white wine. Continue to cook about 5 more minutes.- Add the chopped sweet potatoes, cover with water and cook until potatoes are tender.

3. Transfer mixture to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.-

4. Return mixture to stockpot and add spices and salt and pepper. Finish with heavy cream.-

Soup may be garnished with candied pecans and sage leaves.-

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