You can't tell by looking at this blurred picture, but this is one of the best wintertime foods a person can have: baked sweet potatoes. I wonder sometimes why the sweet potato is usually only served for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, when they are so very nutritious. They are a good source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins A, B6, and C. Animal studies revealed that it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and to lower insulin resistance, making it a beneficial food for diabetics. It's true, they aren't the most beautiful thing before they're cooked; maybe that's the reason some people don't want to try them. Also, it takes a full summer for them to reach maturity, making harvest come in the fall.
I don't know why it surprised me to learn that China is the largest grower of sweet potatoes; 80% of the world's supply. Sixty percent of their crop now goes to feed pigs. Now that I can believe, because I have heard my parents tell about using sweet potatoes one winter to feed their hogs. In the United States, North Carolina is the leading state in sweet potato production, along with California, Louisiana, and Mississippi. I think the ones we bought this winter came from Mississippi. I wish I could tell some farmer how much we enjoy his crop. Around the holidays we were able to buy them for 10 - 25 cents per pound, so we stocked up since they keep so well; they don't need to be refrigerated, just kept in a cool, dark place.
It's interesting to me to learn that in China the potatoes are baked in large iron drums and sold as street food during the winter. Daddy told me several times that his mother sent a sweet potato with him to school for his noon meal; of course by that time of day it was cold. Here in North America, the most popular ways of serving the potatoes are candied, casseroles, fried slices, and baked.
Baking is my favorite way of preparing sweet potatoes for our meals. I wash the potatoes, rub them liberally with shortening, then bake at 350* until a prick goes through them easily. An added bonus is the wonderful smell coming from the warm oven. The shortening makes the skins tender and moist so they peel right off. I prefer this simple way; no added brown sugar or marshmallow, only adding a couple curls of Smart Balance and let it slowly melt over the potato. Yum, yum; we call them our candy bars.
Edited, Mon. a.m.: I got to thinking about feeding them to the hogs and maybe I was wrong. It could have been turnips; however, a hog would have eaten sweet potatoes if given the chance. lol