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Okinawan Sweet Potatoes

Gracing the popular World’s Healthiest Foods list, sweet potatoes have reason to brag, if they were so inclined (and capable). They really are quite nutritious, and strut their stuff with so many varieties! Actually, I think they do that to confuse us. ;)

Just think of how often the word “yam” is used colloquially to reference sweet potatoes. They’re not the same thing. Not even the same family.

Wikipedia has some good pages on the distinction between Sweet Potatoes and Yams, but for a more humorous treatment, check out the Sweet Potato Awareness blog.

OK, here’s a little challenge for you. Regular or sweet potato? (And, no, it’s not a yam. Hehe.)

Well, it’s a sweet potato, but there’s a surprise inside:

And check out the marbling on this one!

These are the famed Okinawan sweet potatoes, aka imo, a major staple of that long-lived Japanese culture’s diet. Indeed, The Okinawa Program suggests, whereas tomatoes are the major contributor of lycopene in the American diet, it is the imo that provides it for the Okinawans.

I am so grateful to a Hawaiian friend for shipping me these organic beauties (and raw, organic macadamia nuts too)! Like most mainlanders, I had never tried them before. I can now check it off my “before I die” list.

What a treat. They were closer to regular than sweet potatoes in starchiness, but in sweetness they definitely lived up to the appellation—though in a somehow different way than the orange kind.

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4 Responses to “Okinawan Sweet Potatoes”

  1. keda says:

    how did you prepare them?

  2. Erin says:

    Most of them I just lightly steamed (one batch saw the nonstick fry pan). My very first bites ever were without any spices at all. I really wanted to savor the experience and see what would compliment them best. Later I enjoyed them wrapped in raw collard or kale, either with garlic and herbs or a more sweet treatment with cinnamon and a dash of chipotle.

  3. peg diamond says:

    Off the top of your head: are yams and sweet potatoes equivalent in nutrition?
    Peg D

  4. Erin says:

    That’s a hard one. Looking at the USDA database, and giving them the benefit of the doubt for knowing a true yam from a sweet potato, there appear to be a lot of differences. The former is more calorie-dense, has more potassium, and a little less sodium. The sweet potato beats it hands down for vitamin A, and provides a little more calcium and protein.

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