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What is a sweet potato?
The sweet potato is a popular starchy, root vegetable packed with fibre, antioxidants, vitamins like Vitamin B, C, and A, and minerals like iron, selenium, and calcium. Most commonly confused with the dry yam, the sweet potato has a moist flesh which can vary in colour – from white to orange, and even purple.
Of all the potato varieties, the sweet potato is the easiest crop to grow. Aside from its year-round availability, it also doesn’t need much maintenance and harvest is usually abundant. The vine thrives in tropical weather, needing around five to six months of warm weather to grow.
Can you eat sweet potato leaves?
Yes. Sweet potato plants are typically grown for their sweet tubers, but the leaves are great too. These edible leaves – scientifically called Ipomoea Batatas – contain high dietary fibre and can be absolutely delicious.
In some cultures, sweet potato greens can even be applied topically by crushing its leaves and incorporating it into ointments to treat rashes and skin irritations caused by poisonous plants and insect bites. It is also believed that boiling the leaves and drinking the resulting infused tea can aid in reducing appetite and treat metabolic issues.
Health benefits of sweet potato greens
In a study done by the Louisiana State Agricultural Center, it was found that the leaves provide vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Thiamine, Niacin, Zinc, Folic Acid, Calcium, Riboflavin, Iron, Vitamin K, B-Carotene, B6, and Protein.
Here’s how these essential components provide nutrition to one’s body:
The presence of Vitamin K in the root crop leaves helps in preventing calcification in the arteries of hard deposits, which causes heart attacks. It also aids in reducing inflammation of cells lining the blood vessels.
Improved eyesight and healing properties
Vitamin A has multiple health benefits, including vision health enhancement, anti-inflammatory properties, and skin regrowth, to name a few.
Vitamin A is also capable of lowering inflammation, reducing the risk of allergic reactions and the chances of neurodegenerative diseases.
Lastly, having the right dosage of vitamin A promotes healthier skin due to the production of collagen to counteract fine lines and wrinkles.
In Health Benefits Times, it is mentioned that aside from a healthy heart, the vitamin K in this leafy green is also able to keep the calcium on bones, reducing the risk of bone loss (osteoporosis) and bone fractures, especially in postmenstrual women.
How to cook sweet potato leaves
Raw: Sweet potato leaves can either be consumed raw or cooked. Eating the leaves in its purest, raw form can leave a slight bitterness to the palate while cooking it will release a mild, sweet taste similar to spinach. Whether you decide to add it to a fresh salad or incorporate it into a green smoothie, sweet potato leaves can surely help you add essential nutrients into your diet.
Here are two healthy salad recipes using raw sweet potato leaves:
- Apron and Sneakers - Sweet Potato Leaves Salad
- Nourishing Days - Sweet Potato Green Salad with Tomato and Onion
Cooked: While cooking greens results in some vitamin-loss, heat can actually activate certain nutrients, vitamins, and enzymes.
You can use sweet potato leaves as a substitute for spinach. The leaves can be paired with fish sauce, aromatics like garlic, ginger, and onion, shrimp paste, and meats.
Get inspired by these tasty recipes:
- The Woks of Life - Yam Leaves, Stir-Fried Sweet Potato Leaves
- Hungry Go Where - Sweet Potato Leaves In Coconut Milk
- Nyonya Cooking - Easy Vegetable Chinese Stir Fry
- Noob Cook - Sambal Sweet Potato Leaf
- Hadia’s Lebanese Cuisine - Sweet Potato Leaf Stew