POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 17, 2010
Sweet potato topped with brown sugar, marshmallows or maple syrup is one of those classic Thanksgiving dishes we all love. And here in Hawaii, it's especially good because we have a choice of purple, yellow and orange varieties of this lusciously good starch. Even better, some sweet potatoes are grown on Hawaii farms.
Sweet potato, or uala, was one of the food plants that came to Hawaii with early Polynesian voyagers. One thing to remember: a yam, a starchy tuberous root, is not a sweet potato, a member of the morning glory family. Yam became the name for a soft, orange-fleshed variety of sweet potato that grew in the South, used to distinguish it from other varieties. Sweet potatoes are also not related to potatoes!
Interestingly, sweet potatoes are not particularly sweet when they're picked. They require storage time to develop the sugar from the starch.
When buying sweet potatoes, buy only what you need and choose those that are heavy for their size. Store in a basket on your kitchen counter; do not keep them in plastic bags and do not refrigerate them.
For best flavor and color and a firmer texture, bake sweet potatoes in the oven, in their cleaned skins, at 350 to 400 degrees. Bake until very soft in the center, about 45 minutes. Starting sweet potatoes in a cold oven is a good idea to increase the sweetness.
If you're mashing sweet potatoes, steam them for smoothness, creaminess and shorter cooking time. If you're boiling sweet potatoes, keep the pieces submerged in water to prevent spottiness in the flesh.
Hawaii food writer Joan Namkoong offers a weekly tidbit on fresh seasonal products, many of them locally grown. Look for "Fresh Tips" every Wednesday in the Star-Advertiser.