Playing with Purple Sweet Potatoes
You know that when a gorgeous new vegetable appears in the produce section, I’m going to grab it. Purple Sweet Potatoes? Yes, please.
It turns out that the Stokes Purple Sweet Potato is actually pretty new, at least to the commercial market. A farmer in Stokes County, North Carolina, was looking for a profitable crop to replace tobacco, since tobacco is not such a great bet, these days. The story is that a mysterious woman saw him win a prize at a local fair for his sweet potato, and she came up to him afterwards, to give him the enigmatic yam. He patented the variety in 2006 and it’s been on the market since 2008, and is grown in California now, too.
The purple yam has many of the great health benefits of a regular sweet potato, with the bonus of the purple pigment, anthocyanin. That puts them in the antioxidant star category with blueberries. The purple replaces the orange that gives orange sweet potatoes all that Vitamin A, but you can get your beta carotene from a carrot. Purple is harder to find.
So alongside the purple antioxidants, the sweet potato has all that great fiber, vitamin C and trace minerals. Sweet potatoes have the unique quality of tasting really sweet, but not raising blood sugar levels very much. Studies have found that other phytonutrients in the sweet potato actually act to stabilize blood sugars, making them a good treat for diabetics.
There’s even some compelling evidence that the protein in sweet potatoes kills cancer cells and stops them from metastasizing. (watch a video on this here)
But lets get back to the fun here, these roots are like a pot of purple paint, waiting to be used. Take a look at the color of a baked and pureed one:
Of course, baking with the puree was going to be fun, but I also had to give them a try in a savory dish, so I sliced one up and tossed it with a little canola and roasted it at 425 for about 20 minutes. Here are the “fries” with a little guac I put together.
The purple sweet potato is just a little different from say, a Garnet Yam. It’s a little drier and denser, and the texture is more like a mealy baking potato. The dryness makes them perfect for making these fries, as well as for making a concentrated purple paste for baking. I’ve also roasted them whole and then sliced the cooled flesh for a salad, and thrown them into vegetable soup.
As you can imagine, a bowl of simply mashed purple sweet potatoes, with a little olive oil and garlic, or a little maple syrup, would make a fun side dish at any Fall dinner.
If you are lucky enough to have a source for the purple sweet, by all means give them a try in any sweet potato recipe. Or, try this cookie. Not too sweet, and vibrantly colored, they are definitely a conversation starter at lunch!
Purple Sweet Potato-Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Cherries
Makes about 22 cookies
Of course, you can use regular sweet potatoes if you don’t have purple.
1/4 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons ground golden flax
3/4 cup purple sweet potato puree
1/4 cup canola or coconut oil
1/2 cup raw honey or light agave
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups unbleached flour (for bright color, or use half white wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dark chocolate chunks
Preheat the oven to 350 F, line two sheet pans with parchment.
In a medium bowl, combine the almond milk and flax, stir to mix and let stand for 5 minutes to thicken. Add the sweet potato, oil, honey or agave and vanilla and stir vigorously to mix.
In a large bowl, stir the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in the sweet potato mixture, it will be thick, switch to kneading it with your hands just until mixed. Mix in the cranberries and chocolate.
Use a tablespoon to form rounded balls of dough, about 2-3 tablespoons each. Form into balls and place on the sheet pans, leaving 2 inches between the balls. Wet your palms and flatten to 3/4 inch thick.
Bake for 8 minutes, reverse the pans and bake for 8 minutes more, until golden on the edges. Transfer to racks to cool.