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sweet potato


Synonym: batata; botanical name: Ipomoea batata



The sweet potato is native to Central and South America and is grown above all in the tropics and sub-tropics. Freed slaves took the tuber from America to Africa. Today it is cultivated in South America, West Africa, southern USA and the Arab region, as well as in Indonesia, Japan and China.

In Europe the sweet potato is grown in Spain and Portugal. The main suppliers to the German market, however, are Brazil and Israel.

In the main areas where it is cultivated, the sweet potato is one of the most important foods and ranks the same as the potato with us. It is also used as animal fodder.


Sweet potatoes are harvested year round and are thus always available. Meanwhile they are marketed more frequently here, and not only in Afro-Asian shops.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

It was not only its resemblance to the potato that gave the sweet potato its name; its growth and ingredients are also similar to those of the potato. Yet the sweet potato belongs botanically to a different family, the bindweeds, and because it is undemanding of its environment it can be grown in both the tropics and the sub-tropics.

The plant grows bushy and crawls along the ground and forms tubers, the sweet potatoes, on the rootstock below ground. These are mostly spindle-shaped or cylindrical and have a whitish, yellowish, reddish or brownish skin. The surface is always uneven, never smooth. In our region the sweet potatoes with red skins are most often sold. A tuber can weigh an average of 1 kg, but only those with a maximal weight of 500 g are interesting for the domestic market.

The tuber is slightly mealy and slimy on the inside, and whitish to yellowish or bright red. Its flavour, as the name implies, is pleasantly sweet and resembles that of chestnuts. The red varieties are the most aromatic.


A high sugar and starch content is characteristic of sweet potatoes, but this is subject to great variations. The content depends on the area of cultivation – the sugar content is higher in the tropics than in the sub-tropics. The exact opposite is true of the starch content. In addition, sweet potatoes supply considerable amounts of carotenoids.

100 g contain:

Sweet potato, fresh
Energie (kcal)
Wasser (g)
Eiweiß (g)
Fett (g)
< 1
Kohlenhydrate (g)
Ballaststoffe (g)
β-Carotin (mg)
Vitamin C (mg)
Vitamin E (mg)
Folsäure (μg)
Kalium (mg)
Calcium (mg)
Magnesium (mg)
Phosphor (mg)
Eisen (mg)

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Sweet potatoes should be firm when they are bought; older ones become soft, wrinkled or shrivelled.

They can be stored indefinitely because the tubers contain a large amount of water. Like potatoes, they are best kept in a cool, dark and dry place that is well-aired. As they are sensitive to frost, the temperature should not drop below 5°C.

Presumed effect on health

In some tropical countries the women are convinced that sweet potatoes purify the blood and positively influence the level of iron. They are held to be especially good for pregnant women. Neither of these two effects is scientifically proven, particularly since the concentration of iron in sweet potatoes is quite low.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Sweet potatoes can be used like potatoes. They are either peeled or washed thoroughly and prepared with the skin, where – as with the potato – the most vitamins and minerals are found.

The tubers can be cooked and served as fried potatoes. They are also popular baked in aluminium foil. They are supposed to taste especially good when they are baked in hot ashes. They are also suitable for making potato pancakes and mashed potatoes; the white variety is recommended for pancakes.

In the classical method of preparation, peeled sweet potatoes are pierced several times with a fork, rubbed with oil and baked wrapped in foil. Then they are puréed, seasoned with herbs and cream or milk, and baked again in a casserole until a crust forms. This purée goes well with many different dishes; offer it with fish, meat and game. Unbaked, it can serve as the basis for spaetzle, dumplings and gnocchi. Furthermore, sweet dishes such as cake and soufflés can be made from the tuber.

Thin slices of sweet potato, dipped in tempura dough and deep-fried, can also be very tasty.

Sweet potatoes are also used in the food industry. Owing to their high starch content, they are used to produce starch as well as flakes, brandy, syrup and ethanol. In the West Indies they are employed in the production of the "Moby" cocktail and in Latin America for the "Marmoda". And finally, non-perishable concentrates can be made from the tuber that are suitable for inclusion in the diet of the armed forces.

Seasoning tip

Hearty dishes can be rounded off with rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, garlic, bay leaf, paprika, nutmeg or sage. Vanilla, cinnamon, lime and orange go well with sweet dishes.


In the USA, sweet potatoes are a standard component of the Thanksgiving meal.





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