Sweet Potato High

As we sit here fully ensconced in all the flavors of fall, let’s take a moment to appreciate the somewhat ugly yet all-together beneficial qualities of the sweet potato. Pulled from the ground much like the standard potato and other similar tubers, the sweet potato packs a nutritional punch and a highly distinguishable taste that makes it a stand-out side dish whether its fried, baked, mashed or thrust into a pie.

And no, a sweet potato is not a yam. Yams are a completely different vegetable that mainly grows in tropical regions. Firstly, where sweet potatoes are moist and creamy, yams are often dry and starchy. Not only that, yams wish they had the many healthy benefits of the sweet potato, which bestows upon eaters large amounts of beta-carotene that our body can transform into helpful vitamin A. As if that wasn’t enough, sweet potatoes also yield generous quantities of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

Healthiness is all well and good, but it’s meaningless if it tastes like tree bark. Luckily the taste of a sweet potato is like a potato, get this, only sweeter. Hence, it graciously glides into both savory and sweet recipes. This makes the sweet potato the epitome of versatile side dishes. Chief among the salty and savory side of the sweet potato is sweet potato fries. The origin of sweet potato fries is hard to nail down, with some research suggesting the Savannah Grill restaurant in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the early ’90s and other sources insisting sweet potato fries were born in Argentina in the 1940s. Regardless of where the dish began, it is a welcomed sweet and salty alternative to the more ubiquitous standard French fries.

On the sweet side, Thanksgiving-staple sweet potato casserole brings marshmallows to the dinner table. An odd combination at first, the toasty marshmallows actually add a caramelized smokiness to sweet potatoes—a flavor so all-around mind altering that it makes complete and total sense immediately after the first bite. Of course, then there’s sweet potato pie which bears a striking resemblance to pumpkin pie but, of course, is a much different experience. Sure, the ingredients are almost identical, but sweet potato has much more going on texturally and the filling is often more airy and lighter.

So as the dried leaves and crisp air of autumn roll into the inevitable barren winter, fortify your soul with the many benefits of the grand sweet potato.

Steve Mosco
Steve Mosco, the former editor-in-chief at Anton Media Group, is a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections. He fancies himself a tastemaker, food influencer and king of all eaters.

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