Now that autumn has officially arrived, it’s time for us to shift gears from melons and summer berries, to the new season’s fresh produce.  Topping the fall fruit list are the regulars: apples, pears, grapes and cranberries, along with pomegranates and kumquats.  Seasonal vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, squash and a variety of root vegetables.  A standout among autumn vegetables – and all vegetables – is the mighty sweet potato.

This large, starchy and sweet tasting vegetable has all the characteristics of a super-veggie.  Only a distant relative of the potato, sweet potatoes originate in the tropical regions of America.  Known by different names in different parts of the world, and often incorrectly called ‘yams’ (yams are an entirely different vegetable), sweet potatoes are one of nature’s richest sources of the antioxidant beta-carotene (converted into Vitamin A).  Vitamin A is known to strengthen immunity and to support vision, bone and overall health.

Sweet potatoes are jam-packed with nutrition, while being relatively low in calories and high in fiber. In addition to having more than 200% of the recommended daily dose of Vitamin A, they are rich in minerals, providing 20% of the RDA for iron, 25% for phosphorous and at least 10% for zinc, magnesium and calcium.  They also contain smaller amounts of vitamins C, B-6 and folate.  So whether you consider them a vegetable (botanically) or a starch (nutritionally), you’re doing your body a favor by incorporating more sweet potatoes into your diet.

sweet potatoes

photo credit: Dr. Odd

In addition to being fabulous for your health, sweet potatoes are also tasty and versatile.  And easy to prepare. Below are a few options.

Roast them: Cube them (2-3cm), toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast them at 200C until golden and crispy.

Steam them: Steaming sweet potatoes for just 7 minutes brings out their great flavor and maximizes their nutritional value. (Add cinnamon or nutmeg for added flavor and nutrition.) Craving more ideas? Check out these 25 Healthy Sweet Potato recipes.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries Recipe (we recently tried it and think you’ll love it too. originally found on www.popsugar.com

INGREDIENTS

2 large garnet yams or sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

For dip:
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons chipotle peppers, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

 DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.
  2. Toss cut sweet potatoes in olive oil, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and cayenne. Make sure every wedge is evenly coated.
  3. Roast cut-side down for 30 minutes, turning once.
  4. While sweet potatoes are roasting, mix Greek yogurt, peppers, and lime juice in a small jar. Set aside in the fridge for whenever you’re ready to dip!

If you’re in the mood for something more exotic, there are some really delicious South Indian-style sweet potato recipes out there.   With Thanksgiving coming up next month, these also make a tasty, creative and healthy alternative to more traditional dessert-like sweet potato dishes.

* A Perfect Song for Fall: a gorgeous rendition of ‘Autumn Leaves’:

Eva Cassidy performing her incredibly moving version of “Autumn Leaves”. (A beautiful artist and soul gone too soon.)