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Definition: sweet potato from Philip's Encyclopedia

Trailing plant native to South America and cultivated as a vegetable in Japan, Russia, USA, and the Pacific. Its flowers are pink or violet. The orange or yellow, tuber-like root is edible. Family Convolvulaceae; species Ipomoea batatas.

Summary Article: Sweet Potato
From The Illustrated Cook's Book of Ingredients

Sweet potatoes are not related to ordinary potatoes, nor to yams, with which they are sometimes confused. Native to Central America, they have become a staple carbohydrate food source all over the world, and are now widely cultivated in the tropics and warm, temperate regions. There are many varieties of sweet potato, with varying skin and flesh color. After cooking, orange-fleshed varieties are sweet, moist, and creamy; those with white or pale yellow flesh have a drier, firmer texture.


Late summer and fall are the peak season for sweet potatoes in temperate regions; in the tropics, they are available year-round. The best tubers are firm, fat, and unblemished. They should feel heavy for their size.


They can be kept for up to 10 days at cool room temperature, never in the fridge where the cold will hasten their loss of quality.


Boil, steam, bake, roast, deep-fry as French fries, or tempura, or sauté. Puréed orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are also widely used in cakes, breads, and muffins, as well as in pies, puddings, and custards. White-fleshed varieties of sweet potato are particularly favored in Asia, where they are used like white potatoes.


Slices are dried or candied in many parts of the world.

Flavor pairings

Apples, brown sugar, molasses, ginger, maple syrup, honey, citrus, chili, hickory nuts, nutmeg, thyme.

Classic recipes

Sweet potato chips; sweet potato pie; dulce de camote.


Popular in the Caribbean, Boniato, also known as Cuban sweet potato, is less sweet and moist than other varieties. The flesh has a nice, fluffy texture that mashes and bakes well.


With typically sweet, moist flesh, this orange-fleshed variety lends itself to baking, boiling, mashing, and roasting. It can also be used in cakes and pies.

Classic recipe
Sweet Potato Chips

Potato chips were invented in 1850s New York. Those made with sweet potatoes and other root vegetables are now becoming modern classics.

  • oil for deep-frying
  • 1lb (450g) sweet potatoes
  • sea salt (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in a deep pan or deep-fryer to 350°F (180°C). Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes and slice very thinly using a mandolin or food processor fitted with a fine slicing blade.

  2. When the oil is hot (you can test the temperature by dropping in a slice of potato: it should rise to the surface and start sizzling immediately), add a small batch of the potato slices, using a slotted spoon or frying basket to lower them into the oil.

  3. Fry for 1–2 minutes, or until crisp and lightly golden brown on both sides. Do not overcook. Lift the sweet potato chips out of the oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining sweet potato slices. Before serving, sprinkle with salt, if you like.

© 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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