The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a root vegetable that produces tuberous roots which are harvested and eaten boiled. It is sweet and often dipped in sugar in Asian countries. It is remotely-related to the potato (Solanum tuberosum) but of different family. It is a tropical crop that requires warm nights and ample sunshine. Sweet potato varieties produce mature tubers from two to nine months. Propagation is by adventitious roots, stem, or root cuttings. Soil requirements are best meet in conditions with a pH of 4.5 to 7.0 in light- to medium-textured, well-drained soils. The sweet potato is considered as a staple in some tropical countries where rice and potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are scarce or expensive.
Sweet Potato Growing Countries
Sweet potato is relatively easy to grow in the right conditions. However, storage is a difficult task as sweet potatoes are very vulnerable to spoilage. In Africa and Asia where farmers eat sweet potatoes everyday, the crop remains in the ground until ready for use. Some simple storage methods are used such as pit, clamp, and indoor storage that prolongs their use. Some pre-treatment also helps such as curing and drying.
National Annual Output Levels
China currently accounts for more than half of the total global sweet potato output at 70,963,630 metric tons annually. This is due to the rich production yield of up to 30 tons per hectare. It is also treated as a catch crop. Second is Nigeria at 3,478,270 metric tons. Nigerians prefer their sweet potato in porridge, fermented drinks, and plain boiled. Third is Tanzania at 3,345,170 metric tons. Tanzanians prefer it as crisps, porridge, steamed, and mashed potatoes. Fourth is Ethiopia at 2,701,599 metric tons. Ethiopians prefer theirs consumed as cookies, stews, porridge, and even flatbread. Fifth is Indonesia at 2,382,658 metric tons. Indonesians love it in sweets, cakes, desserts, and as potato puffs. Sixth is Uganda at 1,863,000 metric tons. Ugandans like them made into porridge, chapatti, and as donuts. Seventh is Vietnam at 1,401,055 metric tons. Vietnamese prefer theirs in meat dishes, stews, and curry. Eighth is United States at 341,910 metric tons. Americans like it mashed, baked, candied, and in pies. Ninth is India at 1,087,880 metric tons. Asian Indians like them in patties, spiced, chutney, and curry. Tenth is Rwanda at 1,080,780 metric tons. Rwandans like it as fries, sweets, chips, and in chunks.
CUlinary Use of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) and yams (Dioscorea alata) are often mistakenly identified but the difference is in the texture and moisture. Yams are drier and has more starch. Both plants are tuberous and flower-bearing but sweet potatoes are dicot (meaning there are two embryonic seed leaves in the plant's early development) while yams are monocot (having one embryonic seed leaf). Yams have thick black bark-like skins and grow to five feet while sweet potatoes are smaller with thin skins either golden or copper-colored.
Sweet potatoes have many culinary uses. Cooks have made it into fries, fried battered patties, and plain fried slices, eaten with burgers or alone. Other interesting culinary products are sweet potatoes pies, pancakes, sweet desserts, potato balls, porridge, stew, caramelized chunks, buns, baked, or in soups. China has more sweet potato dishes than any other country.