Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Cooking and Eating Sweet Potato Leaves

Bet you would eat more sweet potato leaves if you knew they have five times more vitamin C than other greens such as spinach. While it is true, you will not find sweet potato leaves at your local supermarket or farm-fresh produce stand that does not mean you cannot find sweet potato leaves to cook.

Sweet potato leaves are widely popular throughout Africa in cooking recipes but do not get as much use in the United States. Most people have no idea you can cook with sweet potato leaves. Sweet potato leaves are edible and delicious with a soft texture that tastes like kale or spinach.

Cooking and Eating Sweet Potato Leaves

Go outside of your comfort zone and shop at Caribbean or Asian food supermarkets where it is easy to find fruits and vegetables such sweet potato leaves at places dedicated to ethnic cooking. Sweet potato leaves range in color from dark green to yellow to purple depending on the type of sweet potato. The creeping sweet potato vines are most tender when the sweet potato leaves are younger.

The good thing about sweet potato leaves is that they are available all year round. You use sweet potato leaves in recipes just as you would spinach. Make sweet potato leaves smoothies, sweet potato leave stir-fry. Sweet potato leaves are eating raw and cooked add sweet potatoes to your salad or mix them in with your spinach, sweet potato leaves go well with any dish such as chicken beef pork fish or vegetarian dishes starting with red peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and beets.

We asked The African Gourmet about growing your own sweet potatoes and leaves

As an avid gardener I know gardening plants does wonders for your own well being since the physical exercise can contribute to a healthy weight and blood pressure levels, and just interacting with plant life can improve your mood and mental health. Besides the physical exercise, you will get tending to a vegetable garden, a productive plot can also promote a better diet by supplying fresh, healthy produce. Growing sweet potatoes may sound odd to add to your healthy habits checklist but gardening is good for relieving the stress in life.

The best way to cook sweet potatoes is just to simply sauté them with a little bit of onion olive oil salt and pepper you can even get a little fancy with your African food and add some grilled fish on the side. In some communities in Eastern Africa, sweet potatoes are preserved for the dry season by sun-drying to make amukeke, dried sweet potato chips. The dried chips are boiled and mashed with beans, milled or pounded to make flour, which can be mixed with either millet or cassava flours to make stiff porridge.

Uganda leads the way in sweet potato production representing half the African supply followed by Nigeria and Tanzania. Harvest Plus Program on Agriculture introduced the potato in 2007 for Nutrition and Health. In Uganda, the sweet potato is grown by over 44% of Ugandan farmers and is the fourth most important staple food in the country. Sweet potatoes are considered ready for harvest when the leaves begin to yellow. Great care must be taken to avoid damage to the skin of sweet potato roots since they can be easily damaged and eventually decay. Sweet potatoes store for many months in ideal cold store conditions.

Cooking Sweet Potato Leaves is Easy When You Make The African Gourmet Saute Sweet Potato Leaves Recipe

African Food Recipes by African Gourmet

Remember, just as spinach sweet potato leaves cook down a lot and have a similar taste.

Nutrition information per serving: 1 gram fat, 28 grams carbohydrates, 3 milligrams of sodium

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 3 min
Total time: 18 min
Yields: 4 servings

4 large handfuls sweet potato leaves, chopped
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 bunch chives, chopped
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

Add ingredients into a large pot and saute about 3 minutes. Serve over rice.

How to grow perfect sweet potatoes tips, don't know where to start? Well, here you go:

Sweet potatoes are the third most important crop in seven eastern and central African countries, and fourth in six southern African countries.

Historically, sweet potatoes have been a poor soil crop that produces a decent harvest in imperfect soil but will do much better when planted in good soil and given regular doses of fertilizer. Sweet potatoes are not very sweet when first dug, but they are fine for sweetened pies or casseroles. They need a period to sit and cure to bring out their sweetness.

Sweet potatoes are tropical plants that are very sensitive to cold weather. In warm climates, many gardeners plant sweet potatoes about a month after the last spring frost, when both the air and soil are dependably warm. The plants produce lush vines that make a pretty ground cover, so they are a great crop for beds that adjoin areas that are difficult or tiresome to mow.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Growing sweet potatoes works best in loamy, well-drained soil. Ideally, the pH should be between 5.8 and 6.2, although they will tolerate a more acidic pH, down to 5.0. Before planting, mix in several inches of compost or aged compost-enriched organics. to improve soil texture and nutrition, then thoroughly dampen the bed. If your soil is heavy clay, try growing sweet potatoes in raised beds filled with soil designed for that growing environment. Good root development depends on there being plenty of air space in the soil. They are the ideal crop for areas with sandy soil. In the North, it is a good idea to cover the soil with black plastic or black fabric mulch about 3 weeks before planting to warm the soil.

Cooking and Eating Sweet Potato Leaves

Plant sweet potatoes about 12 to 18 inches apart, and allow 3 feet between rows so the vines will have plenty of room to run. When setting out sweet potatoes in very hot, sunny weather, cover the plants with upturned flower pots for 3 days after planting to shield them from baking sun.

Sweet potato seedlings in containers have a tendency to become root-bound. When the roots which turn into the actual sweet potatoes begin to grow in the pot, they will often circle around the inside of the pot. Once that happens, there is a chance they will not fill out properly. 

To remedy that, before planting, cut each plant off just above the soil line in the container, and then plant it without roots straight into your garden bed. The slip will form new roots in just 2 to 3 days, and those roots will eventually become fine well-formed sweet potatoes. Be sure to keep the slips watered well, especially during the first week.

Sweet potato vines will soon cover a large area. Thoroughly weed your sweet potatoes 2 weeks after planting by pulling them gently; if possible avoid deep digging with a hoe or other tool that disturbs the feeder roots that quickly spread throughout the bed. 

These give rise to your sweet potatoes. Water weekly. Water is especially important as plants grow and roots spread. Continue weeding and adding more mulch for another month. After that, sweet potatoes can usually fend for themselves, though they do benefit from weekly deep watering during serious droughts.

Harvest and Storage

Sweet potatoes are usually ready to harvest just as the ends of the vines begin to turn yellow, or just before frost in the North. To avoid injuring tubers, find the primary crown of the plant you want to dig, and then use a digging fork to loosen an 18-inch wide circle around the plant. Pull up the crown and use your hands to gather your sweet potatoes. To make digging easier and get the vines out of your way, you can cut some of them away before digging. Harvest before frost because cool temperatures can reduce the quality of the potatoes and their ability to keep.

Shake off the soil, and then lay the unwashed sweet potatoes in a warm 80°F to 90°F well-ventilated place for about 10 days. A shaded table outdoors and out of the rain works well. As the sweet potatoes cure, any scratches in the skins should heal, and the flesh inside will become sweeter and more nutritious. This step is very important, as fresh, uncured potatoes do not bake as well. After 10 days, move your cured tubers to any spot that stays cool and dry, but do not refrigerate or store below 50°F. Cured sweet potatoes will keep for up to 6 months when stored at around 60°F with high humidity; a basement is ideal, though an air-conditioned storage room or pantry will do fine.

Wise African Proverb

Wise African Proverb

More Articles to Read from Chic African Culture

Show more

Week’s Best Posts and Pages

Chura Dance Twerking on the Beach in Africa

Liberian rice bread recipe is traditional bread from Liberia

Top ten African countries with the most Gold Olympic medals

Chad Steamed Honey Cassava Buns