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Be Good to Sweet Potatoes and They’ll Be Good to You

Thursday, September 19, 2013 | 08:05am

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee grown sweet potatoes can be found at virtually every local farmers market across the state throughout the fall, peaking in October and November. When chosen and stored with care, this is that rare vegetable that actually gets better as it waits to be used. That’s great news for winter meals, since there are few options for fresh local produce between November and April. Following a few simple guidelines will keep your sweet potatoes in top condition until you use them.

Choose firm, relatively smooth sweet potatoes without wrinkles, bruises, sprouts, or decay. Even if cut away, a decayed spot may have already caused the whole potato to take on an unpleasant flavor.

Don't store sweet potatoes in a refrigerator. Temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit will chill this tropical vegetable, giving it a hard core and an odd taste when cooked. Instead, store them for up to a month in a dry, cool (55-60 F) place, like a cellar, pantry or garage. Sweet potatoes contain an enzyme that converts most of its starches into sugars as the potato matures. This sweetness continues to increase during storage and when they are cooked.

At normal room temperature, they should be used within a week of purchase. Brush off excess dirt before storing, but do not wash them until you are ready to cook them. It’s the moisture from washing that increases their spoilage.

Wash sweet potatoes well before cooking. Most of the nutrients are next to the skin, and skins are easier to remove after they have been cooked, so cook them in their skins when possible. Pierce skins with a fork, then place potatoes in a pan and cook at 375 F for about 45 minutes or until tender. Cool potatoes slightly before removing skins.  Once cooked, most sweet potato dishes freeze well.

Sweet potatoes can be cooked in a microwave oven to save time. Wash and pierce potatoes as usual, then place them on a paper towel. The cooking time for 2 medium potatoes is on high for 5–9 minute, and 4 potatoes, 10–13 minutes depending on the strength of the microwave.

Visit www.picktnproducts.org to find local farmers markets, more recipes, and more information about other Tennessee farm products.


Sweet Potato Souffles

1/ 2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
5 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/ 2 cup dry sherry
1/ 2 cup red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-1/2 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/ 2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a tablespoon of butter, grease eight 8-ounce ramekins and set aside. Heat oil in a large saute pan over high heat until hot. Add mushrooms and garlic and saute 4 minutes. Add sherry and wine, cooking until mixture is almost completely evaporated. Add remaining butter and season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and cool.

Combine sweet potatoes with brown sugar, cream, egg yolks and thyme. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Whip egg whites on high speed of mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold whites into sweet potato mixture.  

Divide mushroom mixture among ramekins. Top with sweet potato mixture. Bake about 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Serve warm.  Yield: 8 servings.   

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