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Ah, sweet potatoes, a favorite fall vegetable. And come Thanksgiving, sweet potatoes feature in delicious casseroles, or are baked and stuffed, mashed or roasted, or become part of hearty salads.
Sweet potatoes are so tasty, and so versatile, that it’s easy to grab a big bagful and then find yourself with too many.
Here we’ll discuss how to store them, show you how nutritious they are, and when to throw out ones that have gone bad.
Selecting raw sweet potatoes
Before you buy a sweet potato, inspect it for strange colors, holes, and mold.
Sometimes an otherwise good-looking sweet potato will show mold growing on one or both tips. Reject it, because even if the larger part looks good, it will spoil quickly.
A healthy sweet potato should have a uniform color. It may probably have rows of dark, shallow depressions up and down its length, but that’s normal.
If left alone too long, sprouts will grow from some of those depressions. But you can eat a sweet potato that has a few short sprouts, even so. Just cut them away.
Select sweet potatoes that are dry, smooth, firm, and heavy in the hand.
Spoiled sweet potatoes have soft, spongy spots. They might have turned dark brown or black. Any mold is suspicious.
Reject sweet potatoes that show signs of shriveling. Having lost moisture, they’re apt to rot.
If a raw sweet potato has a strange smell, it’s risky. Throw it out. This is certainly true of cooked sweet potatoes, too.
Sweet potatoes and their white liquid
White droplets that appear when you slice sweet potatoes are starchy sap. It’s perfectly safe to eat. No need to wipe or rinse it off, unless you want to.
If your sweet potato doesn’t have that white liquid, don’t worry. It’s fine.
Sweet potatoes that turn black when sliced
The starch in sweet potatoes may turn dark when they’re chopped or sliced. This is harmless. The way to treat it is to put the pieces in a bowl of cold water.
Some like to add a squeeze of lemon juice to the cold water, to preserve the sweet potato’s good color. Some claim that adding salt to the soaking water does the same; and that the sweet potatoes won’t absorb the salt if used within an hour.
No matter what you add or don’t add to the cold water, the sweet potato pieces will have shed more starch when you remove them to cook.
Pat the pieces dry before cooking or roll them gently in a clean kitchen towel to dry them off. You’ll get crisper fried or roasted sweet potatoes.
Storing sweet potatoes
Too-cold or too-hot storage temperatures cause defects in sweet potatoes. Cold hardens them and makes them less flavorful. Heat causes small holes inside them. The best temperature for storing sweet potatoes is a few degrees below room temperature.
In the pantry:
Store raw, whole sweet potatoes in the pantry. They will last 3-5 weeks there. If you have only a few sweet potatoes to care for, keep them out where you can see them; preferably in a dark, cool corner of the kitchen.
Canned sweet potatoes will last 12 months in the pantry.
In the garage:
Sweet potatoes last about 6 months stored in other dark, well-ventilated places, such as a cellar, basement, or garage where there’s plenty of air circulation.
It’s always wise to inspect stored produce every few weeks to catch anything spoiled early.
In the freezer:
Raw sweet potatoes aren’t suitable for freezing. If you want to bulk-freeze sweet potatoes, you must blanch them first.
Even better, slice and cook them simply in boiling water until tender, then drain and dry them on kitchen towels. Let them cool down completely and store in freezer bags.
Cooked sweet potatoes freeze very well. Store them in a container that shuts tightly, or in a sealable plastic bag. Label the contents before freezing. Frozen, cooked sweet potatoes, and foods heavy in sweet potatoes like casseroles, last 10-12 months in the freezer.
To thaw out frozen cooked sweet potatoes
Use the microwave to thaw out and reheat the sweet potatoes.
Or thaw them in a non-stick skillet on low heat. Raise the heat slightly to reheat them.
To use in soup, simply add them frozen to the broth.
Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator.
Care of raw sweet potatoes before storing
Do not rinse fresh, raw sweet potatoes, but rub them gently to remove dirt. Moisture from rinsing them will encourage sprouting and mold. Keep them far from heat and moisture.
Store raw sweet potatoes away from other vegetables. They may cause undesired ripening in other raw foods.
Keep a little space between sweet potatoes when you put them away in storage. Friction, or pressing against each other, will cause bruising and later, spoilage.
Prepping sweet potatoes to cook later
Place cut or sliced sweet in an airtight container filled with water. Store it in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. Use within 24 hours or up to 2 days.
Extra cooked sweet potatoes, or foods with plenty of sweet potatoes like a casserole, can be stored in air-tight containers in the refrigerator. Chill leftovers as soon as possible; don’t leave them lying out in the kitchen for very long.
If cooking extra sweet potatoes to use a day or two later, store and chill them as soon as they have cooled down from cooking.
Sweet potatoes: health and nutrition
Sweet potatoes fit into almost any way of eating, no matter which diet you choose. They’re so rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals that it’s a pity not to eat them. Not to mention that they’re so tasty!
Note: sweet potatoes have oxalates, a substance that binds calcium and other minerals. People with kidney stones or who are considered at high risk of developing them should eat only moderate amounts of sweet potatoes.
Consult your doctor or nutritionist if this causes you concern.
One good serving of sweet potato will give you all the vitamin A you need for the day. Your bones, skin, and hair will benefit.
Lots of fiber, contained in the sweet potato’s peel, is another great reason to eat sweet potatoes. You’ll feel full for a long time after eating sweet potatoes, and your blood sugar won’t rise.
One cooked, medium sweet potato supplies ¼ of the daily fiber you need. Just remember to eat the peel too. Your digestion will thank you.
Manganese, important for healthy bones, and potassium for muscle and brain function, are minerals present in sweet potatoes. Potassium also reduces anxiety and stress.
Beta-carotene, also present in carrots, is a key antioxidant present in sweet potatoes. It’s suggested to dribble a little olive oil over your serving of sweet potatoes to increase the absorption of beta-carotene.
Sweet potatoes are chock-full of magnesium, another essential mineral. Magnesium supports the absorption of other vitamins and minerals as well as gifting you with its own benefits.
A medium, skin-on sweet potato gives you 130 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 154% of your daily vitamin A needs, 31% of your vitamin C needs, 15% of your daily potassium needs.
Studies show that eating moderate amounts of sweet potatoes (and sweet potato leaves) may help to regulate blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. Purple sweet potatoes are said to be especially beneficial to the health of the eyes.
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