North Carolina-Sweet Potato-March 28

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-March 28

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special.

In 1995 the sweet potato was officially designated the State Vegetable by the North Carolina General Assembly.

sweet potato

Students from Wilson County schools petitioned the North Carolina General Assembly for the establishment of the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) as the Official State Vegetable in 1995. Their assignment led to the creation of this state symbol. The sweet potato is high in vitamins A and C and low in fat and was grown in North Carolina before the European colonization of North America.

North Carolina ranks first in the production of this very nutritious vegetable. More than 60,000 acres are grown in the state. North Carolina growers produce nearly 50 percent of the total U.S. production. Production is mostly limited to the coastal plain.

Wilson and Johnston are the top two counties in sweet potato production. The southern sweet potato is a root and the Irish potato is a tuber. The potato is a completely different plant, not even a distant cousin. What’s in a name? When it comes to sweet potato versus yam, there is a bit of confusion.

Sweet potatoes have been confused with the yam , which originated in West Africa and Asia. The confusion dates back to the days of the slave trade, when slaves from Africa confused the sweet potato with the “nyami” of their native land. The word “yam” comes from this African word. The name has been used by the industry for many years. Many sweet potatoes are being marketed as “yams,” but are actually sweet potatoes with a vivid orange color, a soft moist consistency when cooked, and a uniquely sweet flavor. Other varieties of sweet potatoes are lighter skinned and have a firmer, drier texture when cooked.

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