Knowing that you are probably all up at night worrying about this, here is why, if you are a person who buys, cooks, and eats sweet potatoes, the quality has not been very good for the past couple of weeks.
Sweet potatoes are harvested in the south (Louisiana to NC) from early/mid August til about now. When first harvested, they are called “green” sweet potatoes, meaning they have not yet been cured (they look the same on the outside to you and me, but a southern farmer and extension agent can tell the difference by looking at them). Curing takes 6-8 weeks, during which time the high heat and high humidity of the special sweet potato curing houses urges the starch to turn to sugar, resulting in the juicy sweetness we are all familiar with around Thanksgiving.
Well, because of last year’s sweet potato shortage, the new crop of yams are being sold sooner than usual – usually we would still be eating the last of last year’s storage crop for another week or two, while the new crop cures. Last year’s shortage means the pretty, lovely, new yams are sold instead. This sounds great, but those pretty, green ones can also be tasteless, dry, pasty, and even inedible. In the south, this uncured yam is generally used for animal feeds, rather than human food. They aren’t necessarily terrible, just not delicious, like we are used to.
I am grateful I able to get other grades of yams that are moist and flavorful, for my foods, but you can’t find those in stores.
Happily, this should all come to end this week, or next, or the next, as the cured sweets make it to market, in plenty of time for your holiday enjoyment.
Believe it or not, I love to hear your stories about using sweet potatoes (another time we can talk about the “sweet potato”/”yam” debate). Please e-mail me and let me know how the crop goes for you. Even better, post it on my facebook page to share it with hundreds of others who are interested, too.