Sweet potatoes

Sweet potato fries. Sweet potato pies. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. However you slice them, sweet potatoes are a favorite comfort food, from the streets of San Francisco to Maori tribes in New Zealand, and everywhere in between. This popular tuber is believed to have originated in South America and parts of Polynesia as far back as 1,000 AD. Sweet potatoes grow best in tropical, temperate weather and they do not tolerate frosts or droughts. Even though they are weather-sensitive, however, under the right conditions, sweet potatoes are easily grown, as they have few natural enemies and require very little fertilizer.

Depending on the cultivar – and there are over 400 varieties – the sweet potato root matures in two to nine months. They are sown using vine cuttings, rather than seeds, and are easy to plant. North Carolina is the leader of sweet potato production in the United States (with California, Mississippi, and Louisiana fighting for a close second) and globally, China takes first place. While sweet potatoes are best known for their root, the leaves and shoots are also edible. In Korean cuisine, the sweet potato starch is used to make cellophane noodles and in South America, red sweet potatoes are combined with lime juice to make a dye for cloth.