Sweet Potato Greens

sweet potato greens

General Information

Sweet potato greens are the mildly flavored leaves of the sweet potato plant, often eaten in Asia and Africa. While sweet potatoes are more often grown for their edible tubers in the United States, in many parts of Asia and Africa, sweet potatoes are grown, at least in part, for their edible greens.  The greens are edible raw, but are a bit strong in flavor.  Try sautéing them in the place of spinach, adding them to stir-fries, or chopping them finely and adding them to salads. 

The sweet potato dates back to prehistoric times, likely originating in the tropical climates of Peru and Ecuador.  These vines have a delicate texture and can be used similarly to spinach or turnip greens.  Like turnip greens, sweet potato greens are slightly bitter and tough, so are best prepared in a way that reduces that bitterness. In southern cooking, bitter greens are boiled for ages; you can vary this by using only enough water to cover the greens, bringing it to a boil, throwing in some salt and the cleaned, roughly-cut greens, and boiling for 5-7 minutes. Then remove the greens and run them under cool water, chop finer, and use in any recipe. You can then sauté them lightly with garlic, a splash with vinegar, a bit of molasses, and add a little Bragg’s amino acids or soy sauce to get the flavor that meat imparts.

Storing & Cooking Information

Handling: Wash and chop sweet potato greens as you would other hearty greens.When looking for sweet potato greens, look for sweet potatoes with dark flesh, and deep green leaves (these are the ones with the most nutrients). 

Storing: When washing the greens, uses small amounts of water and subsequently, wrap them in a damp paper towel, cover them in a plastic bag with small holes, and place in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. This will allow the greens to keep for several days.

Preparing: In order to prepare sweet potato greens to ensure maximum nutritious value, it is important to follow these steps when preparing sweet potato greens:

  • Rinse and chop the leaves into large chunks and remove the stems.
  • Use a minimal amount of water to reduce nutrient loss
  • Heat oil (with water) in pan and add greens
  • Cover and simmer for 3-5 minutes
  • Remove from heat, drain, and serve immediately

Tips: Sweet Potato Greens can be stir-fried with fresh ginger, sesame oil, and lemon juice. Stir-frying cooks food quickly and helps reduce nutrient loss. The Maori people of New Zealand often use sweet potato broth to treat acne. These greens also pair nicely with brown rice or whole grain pasta.

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