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Sweet Potatoes

Farmers Markets, Hungry for Louisiana, Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, Vegetables

Vegetable gratin a mouthwatering meatless main

August 10, 2016

I’m not a vegetarian, but I make it a point to go meatless at least one night a week. It’s a great way to force yourself out of that confining protein-starch-veggie template that lords over the dinner menu and probably has us eating more than our fair share of meat. It also guarantees you enjoy new flavor combinations since vegetarian cooking so often relies on fresh herbs and aromatic vegetables to impart that umami punch.

One of my favorite veg-centric dishes is a savory vegetable gratin, a layered ‘veggie bake’ if you will that’s also referred to as a tian. While it’s packed with healthy fresh vegetables, it’s got a gooey layer of melted Gruyere on top, and a layer of tender potatoes and onions on the bottom, both of which give it main course heft. Yum.

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Asian, Sweet Potatoes, Vegetables

Sweet potato chick pea curry in three easy steps

March 4, 2015

The up-and-down damp weather we’ve been having lately has had me craving something stew-ish, but not something so heavy that it feels like fall or winter. I found myself dreaming about a one pot curry with fresh sweet potatoes, chickpeas and veggies over couscous, the kind of stuff I used to eat way back, when I was single grad student on a budget who didn’t have four other sets of taste buds to appease. But I figured, why not? My kids like Thai flavors, and they love sweet potatoes, so I foisted this yummy veggie curry on them. There are elements of creaminess, sweetness and tang thanks to the base of green curry paste and coconut milk. Hard not to like.

This is a pleasing spring dish that places Louisiana sweet potatoes – seasonal year-round – front and center. They might be harvested in the fall, but their long shelf life makes them enjoyable 12 months out of the year. Modify the other veggies as you see fit. Add different spices or some heat if you like. Or try it over brown rice or quinoa.

Serves 6


For sauce:
1 can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons green curry paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 one-inch piece peeled garlic

For veggies:
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
½ cup chicken broth
1 red pepper, cut into medium chunks
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup fresh spinach
1 can chickpeas, drained

For couscous:
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 10 oz. box plain couscous

1. In a small saucepan, heat coconut milk gently, then add next four ingredients. Simmer for about three minutes and turn off heat.

2. To a Dutch oven or large pot with a lid, add about a half-inch of water and bring to a simmer. Add sweet potatoes, cover and cook for 4 minutes. Add broth, return to simmer, and next five ingredients. Simmer for 5 minutes. Pour curry sauce over veggie mixture and cook another 4-5 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked to you liking and the sauce is hot. Turn off heat.

3. To make couscous, bring broth to boil in a small to medium lidded saucepan. Add couscous, stir and turn off heat. Cover and remove from burner. After five minutes, fluff with fork.

To serve, remove ginger. Mound curry on top of couscous and garnish with fresh cilantro.


Louisiana, Sweet Potatoes, Vegetables

Truly, madly, dirty…sweet potato myths revealed

March 4, 2015

My mother-in-law, Nan, likes to buy Louisiana sweet potatoes direct from a local farmer, resulting in a large box of spuds that get passed around among my husband’s large extended family. We’ve been well-plied with Beauregard variety sweet potatoes for several weeks now, and each time I go back to the till for more, she repeats the same directive: Keep the dirt on them until you cook them.

Is this true, or just rural myth? I recently asked LSU AgCenter Associate Professor Tara Smith, who studies the Louisiana sweet potato at the state’s research station in Chase, Louisiana, southeast of Monroe. The dirt, Smith says, keeps the sweet potatoes from bruising before use.

“Sweet potatoes are stored with the dirt on them after harvest. They’re not washed until they’re packed and shipped to market,” she says. “If you buy direct from a producer with the dirt on them you can store them in that manner until you’re ready to use them. Really, it is the handling component. They are susceptible to bruising and the more they are handled the more likely you are to encounter losses due to shriveling, bruising and subsequent breakdown.”

So there you go.

The dirt is a sort of protective layer for Louisiana’s favorite vegetable.

And what about curing?

Unlike other fresh picked produce, sweet potatoes have to “set up” before they’re ready to consume, or so they say. True? Yep. Consumers never really see this stage, though. Smith says that sweet potatoes are cured immediately following harvest, a process that involves bringing them into the storage shed and subjecting them to 85-90 degrees F and 90% humidity for 5-7 days. Potato sauna! Afterwards they’re stored at 55-60 degrees also with high humidity. After about 6 weeks they’re ready to be packed and shipped. The curing process quickens the conversion of starches into sugar and makes the spud tastes sweeter. It also begins the healing process of any bruises and skinning that occurred during the harvest operation, and “sets” the skin, allowing the sweet potatoes to be washed and packed with less damage to the outer surface.

As for shelf life?

Sweet potatoes can be stored for a year or longer under the right conditions, making them seasonal in Louisiana year round.

Fresh from a Hessmer, La. farmer, Beauregard sweet potatoes.

Fresh from a Hessmer, La. farmer, Beauregard sweet potatoes