SWEET POTATOES have long been a staple of autumn spreads, but here at The Snack Magazine we wondered what year-round dishes the fresh produce industry advocates for these saccharine spuds? Ranging in hue from copper-orange and garnet, to deep purple, these starchy tubers boast a low glycemic index and an impressive nutritional profile to elevate their appeal. Plus, the creamy, deep, nutty flavor of the sweet potato lends itself well to unexpected dishes, from savory sides to rich desserts.
So, how does the industry love thy sweet potatoes?
LET US COUNT THE WAYS!
Gina Petit, Marketing and Specialty Sales Manager, Country Sweet Produce
“My family loves sweet potatoes! My youngest daughter just turned one, and she can easily eat two medium-sized sweet potatoes herself. I am happy to let her overindulge a bit with the number of vitamins and nutrients packed into each serving. Both of my girls really enjoy eating sweet potato fries. My husband and I will cut the sweet potatoes into wedges and sprinkle them with a little sea salt, garlic, and pepper, and put them in a grill pan on the BBQ. I also enjoy making stuffed sweet potatoes with raw honey, raisins, cranberries, cinnamon, and nutmeg. After they are done baking, they smell so sweet that my family thinks they are having dessert. I love it.”
Greg Corrigan, Senior Director of Produce and Floral, Raley's Family of Fine Stores
“I can’t tell you enough how much I love sweet potatoes. They are packed with more nutrition and health benefits than most people know. Sweet potatoes are loaded with potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and B6. Obviously, they are a holiday favorite, but are now gaining popularity year-round and around the world. There are so many ways to prepare them, from sautéed, baked, and mashed, to my favorite...sweet potato fries. They are a staple in our produce departments across our stores and demographics.”
Laura Hearn, Marketing and Business Development Directory, Nash Produce
“Sweet potatoes are like nature’s healthy candy! I may be a little partial, but what’s not to like about a vibrant, orange veggie packed full of nutrients that is delicious as either a sweet or savory treat? I love seeing innovative, culinary creations from sweet potatoes used as a toast substitute and stuffed with meat and cheese, to sweet potato-flavored ice cream, just to name a couple. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve never had a sweet potato dish I did not love, but nothing beats a simple baked sweet potato with a dash of salt and a dollop of butter!”
Mark Carroll, Vice President of Produce and Floral, The Fresh Market
“Years ago I heard about how nutritious sweet potatoes are, and it gave me the perfect excuse to eat them every week. It only adds to their draw that they microwave so quickly and easily, qualifying them as one of the perfect healthy “man foods” out there: right up there with the avocado—something that tastes good, takes minimal effort to make, and is healthy to boot. I’ve worked nearly my entire produce career in Texas, California, and now North Carolina, and I have combined these three regions into one of my favorite produce dishes. Just microwave a North Carolina sweet potato for about five minutes while mashing up a ripe California avocado. Cut the cooked sweet potato lengthwise, place the mashed avocado on top, and then add Texas jalapeño slices on top of it all, and you have one healthy and quick treat!”
Gina Nucci, Director of Corporate Marketing, Mann Packing
“Nutrient-dense, filling, and super delicious, we use sweet potatoes regularly—sometimes fresh-cut but also whole. I’ll use cubes sautéed with bell peppers, onions, and garlic for breakfast potatoes served with eggs; or I’ll scoop the middle out of a whole roasted sweet potato and mash with butter. Our twins love them that way! Lately my favorite has been Mann’s Sweet Potato Ribbons tossed with olive oil and sautéed and finished with cayenne pepper and a squeeze of lime juice.”
George Wooten, President, Wayne E. Bailey Produce Company
“Who would think that George Wooten, Mr. Sweet Potato, would have not liked sweet potatoes growing up? But it is true. As I became involved in the industry I grew very passionate about the product. It became my life’s ambition to change the way sweet potatoes were offered to customers. As a result I became a BIG fan of sweet potatoes. The most unusual way I have used sweet potatoes is to juice them. But one of my favorites is baked sweet potato left over from dinner. We use them as a side dish for breakfast. We remove the skin and slice them, take a small amount of olive oil and butter, pan sear until they are caramelized, then sprinkle with coarse salt. Sweet potato ice cream is not bad either.”
Jeff Thomas, Director of Marketing, Scott Farms
“Sweet potatoes are growing in popularity both domestically and internationally. Among other things, this is due to the high nutrition content and diversity of uses. Many of our customers share their favorite ways to prepare them, but one of my favorites is a sweet potato pancake recipe that 18 Restaurant Group Owner/Chef Jason Smith developed. When topped with a bit of sweet potato butter, the need for syrup is eliminated. Like many of his creations, it is truly a great recipe.”
Johnny White, Sales Manager, Shuman Produce
“Sweet potatoes are a true southern staple that generate many fond family memories. I can still remember my father sharing stories about his love for them as a child and enjoying the “candy” that ran out of them when cooked in my grandmother’s wood-burning stove. For me, sweet potatoes represent tradition and community as sweet potato casserole (with its crunchy brown sugar and pecan topping) is synonymous with large family gatherings.”
Delbert Bland, President and Owner, Bland Farms
“Sweet potato popularity is exploding at retail, within foodservice, and with consumers as well. In the last four or five years I have watched the category truly pick up momentum and demand shows no signs of slowing. The benefits are almost unlimited in terms of their health benefits, usability, and flavor. You can feature sweet potatoes in just about anything you cook, from sweet to savory. Personally, I like them cut simply into ⅛” thick slices and pan-fried with coconut oil till they are just barely crisp and warm. I have a large family and we are big into barbecuing. Each year, I notice that more and more of my family members are opting for sweet potatoes over the traditional baked potatoes that we have always prepared at our get-togethers. I don’t think the category growth is just because people’s taste buds are changing, but due to the fact that more people are aware of sweet potatoes—and more informed on how to use them.”