Food as Medicine Update: Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas, Convolvulaceae)

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas, Convolvulaceae) is a trailing, herbaceous perennial in the morning glory family.1,2 It is indigenous to Central and South America and grows best in subtropical climates, spreading along the ground and producing oblong, tuberous roots. There are more than 400 sweet potato varieties, and most have yellow-brown or copper-colored skins with bright orange or yellow-red flesh.3 Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSPs) are the most common varieties consumed, but white, cream, yellow, pink, and deep purple varieties also exist. The sweet potato plant has alternate, heart-shaped leaves and produces funnel-shaped white, pink, or rose-violet flowers that appear in clusters in the leaf axils as the plant matures.4

Taxonomic confusion can arise over the common name “yam” that often is given to sweet potatoes in the market. Botanically speaking, true yams belong to the genus Dioscorea (Dioscoreaceae) and are much less common in the United…

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