Glorious Sweet Potatoes—An Odyssey of Inspirational Side Dishes!

Glorious Sweet Potatoes!

The sweet potato yields an odyssey of inspirational side dishes!

Did you know sweet potatoes are a member of the morning glory family? And, did you know the brown-skinned, orange-fleshed sweet potato that Americans love to eat candied at Thanksgiving is actually a potato-like tuber which is native to the Caribbean and Central America? The variety is often, incorrectly, called yams, in this country. A true yam is an elongated brown-skinned, white fleshy root native to Africa. Please, let me explain…

Africans who came to the New World as slaves called their yams nyami. When they found sweet potatoes to cook and eat, they called them nyami, too. Soon everyone just started referring to sweet potatoes as yams. And let it be known that true yams from Africa began to be cultivated in the Caribbean, and have become one of the most popular foods there. True yams are now available in American markets and it is important to distinguish between sweet potatoes and yams. Finally, the flesh of a sweet potato is sometimes more golden or yellow than deep orange. These colors are just minor variations on the basic orange sweet potato, and one variety is even purple. It is a beautiful lavender cousin of the basic orange tuber, is denser and drier, and needs a longer cooking time.

Beautiful lavender, or purple sweet potatoes!

More Sweet Potato Folklore…

When Columbus sailed the Caribbean waters, he discovered native American sweet potato plants. Indigenious peoples in Central and South America, as well as in Louisiana also grew sweet potatoes. Portuguese and Spanish explorers took the plants to Asia and back to Europe. The climate in Europe was too cool to grow them, but sweet potatoes did well in the early Virginia colonies. As a result, sweet potatoes have been a popular vegetable throughout the United States ever since.

How to Handle Sweet Potatoes and Nutritional Value…

Sweet potatoes are at their best from September through February and it is best NOT to refrigerate, since the cold will make them tough. Keep sweet potatoes in a dark, dry place and they will store well—almost 3 weeks. Sweet potatoes are excellent boiled or baked, and they can be mashed and added to flour to make cakes, pies, and muffins. When slicing to make stir-fries, or home fries, be sure to use a stainless steel knife to avoid any discoloration.

Sweet potatoes are a powerhouse of nutrition. One medium-size sweet potato provides twice the daily requirement of Vitamin A, and about a third of the daily requirement of Vitamin C, yet it is only 114 calories.

At this time of year, let sweet potatoes be a staple in your kitchen, because these gems can be made into some of the most delicious and economical dishes.




Signature Offering by Annette O. Corona – Freelance Food Writer – All Rights Reserved

Warm Sweet Potato Salad with Spicy Apple Cider Dressing

Makes 4-6 servings

This is a super easy recipe and makes use of the season’s first sweet potatoes and apple cider— and the last of the bell peppers (green, red, or yellow) and hot peppers from the garden. It is a frugal dish that is easy on the pocketbook. The salad travels well so tote it to a potluck, beach picnic, or add it to your Thanksgiving holiday meal in place of candied sweet potatoes.


4 large sweet potatoes

½-cup each: chopped onion and bell pepper

¼-cup freshly chopped parsley

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


To Make Spicy Apple Cider Dressing:

2/3-cup fresh apple cider, room temperature

1/3-cup sunflower oil or any mild-flavored vegetable oil

2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

½-teaspoon sea salt

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons finely minced jalapeno pepper or chile pepper (or more to taste)


  1. Bake the sweet potatoes in a 350 degree F oven for about 40 minutes, or just until fork tender. Let the sweet potatoes cool, peel, and chop into bite-sized pieces; place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the onion, bell pepper, parsley, salt and black pepper and mix gently; drape a kitchen towel over the bowl to keep the salad warm while you make the dressing.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients; spoon the dressing over the sweet potatoes, and toss to blend well. Serve warm, but know it is also good room temperature.

COOKING NOTE: If using purple sweet potatoes, be aware that this variety is denser and drier than the other varieties. The key is to bake purple sweet potatoes longer: 350 degrees for 90-120 minutes, at which time they become pleasantly moist and tender. Use as you would any sweet potato.



Signature Offering by Annette O. Corona – Freelance Food Writer and Cookbook Author – All Rights Reserved

Sweet Potato-Fig Casserole

Makes 6 servings

Fresh Brown Turkey Figs—from my very own tree!

Creative fall cooks adore and delight in the vibrant color and buttery flavor of sweet potatoes. Their flavor is enhanced here by fresh figs, cinnamon, and nutmeg—and use as many figs as you like—this recipe has lots of room for creativity, and also note, that one can use dried figs if fresh are not available. The addition of the season’s first harvest of walnuts adds a wonderful crunch, but feel free to use almonds or pecans instead—or no nuts at all.

I love to serve this dish in wedges as dessert, but I have been told that it is a pleasant surprise as a contrast to Thanksgiving’s vegetable purees, or as an accompaniment to hearty fall stews.


6 baked or boiled sweet potatoes, peeled

2/3-cup apple cider or orange juice

3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/2-teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½-teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

½-cup coarsely chopped walnuts, plus a few more for garnishing

1-2 cups coarsely chopped fresh figs


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and grease an oblong casserole dish with butter, oil or non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Put the sweet potatoes in a large bowl and add the apple cider, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon; coarsely mash with a potato masher or large fork—the mixture does not have to be perfectly smooth.
  3. Gently stir in the walnuts and the chopped figs; Turn the mixture into the oiled casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through; let the casserole cool slightly before cutting into wedges and garnishing with a few extra walnuts. Serve.





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