Many people are surprised to learn that tropical sweet potatoes, native to Central and South America, are commercially grown in Ontario, predominantly along the sandy north shore of Lake Erie. They’re often confused with yams, which are native to Asia and Africa and do not grow in Ontario.
The most common sweet potato varieties grown in Ontario are Beauregard and Covington. A limited amount of the white-fleshed O’Henry variety and the Japanese Murasaki and Okinawa are also grown.
The sweet potato’s deep orange flesh makes it a nutritional powerhouse. One serving has four times the recommended daily allowance for beta carotene. Not only does this acclaimed antioxidant, which converts to Vitamin A, help keep our skin, hair and eyesight healthy, but its low glycemic index makes it ideal for diabetics.
Ontario sweet potatoes also contain fibre. They’re fat and cholesterol-free and can replace regular potatoes in most recipes.
Plant historians believe this perennial vine with heart-shaped leaves was domesticated at least 5,000 years ago in Central America. The flesh of its long edible root may be beige, yellow, orange or purple.
Sweet potatoes are now grown all over the world, wherever there’s sufficient water and sunshine. They do not tolerate frost.
China produces 80% of the world’s sweet potatoes, planting more than 100 varieties.