When I was growing up in the North, sweet potatoes generally made an annual appearance – for the holidays, and they were usually drowning in brown sugar and butter. As a kid, I was convinced that you could eat them if you couldn’t taste them. It wasn’t until I moved to the South that I realized sweet potatoes are a highly respected and nutritious staple and frequent star of the dinner table.
I guess that’s because we grow them here – lots of them. North Carolina is the No. 1 grower of sweet potatoes in the U.S., bringing in $176 million last year. They are the official state vegetable (if you follow that sort of thing). Many former tobacco farmers now produce sweet potatoes that thrive in the same heat and sandy soil. And that’s just one healthy aspect of this odd-shaped tuber.