‘Shakharkhandi’ or Sweet Potato roasted on coal for making one of the most nutritious snacks in the world is a common sight in Indian households. Tasty and packed with antioxidants, sweet potato can either be eaten on its own or as a side dish. This healthy and filling snack is a starchy and sweet tuberous root protecting us from free radicals. Free radicals, as we know, are linked to the rise of frightening diseases like cancer, heart problems and so on.
Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is originally from the tropical regions of America. The orange variety of this root vegetable is called “Yam.” Interestingly, it is very different from the true yam.
Sweet potatoes with white or yellowish flesh are sweeter than those with red, pink, or orange flesh.
Setting it apart
This full-of-goodness tuber commonly comes with brown skin and orange flesh. It comes in a variety of sizes and colours purple, orange, pink, yellow, beige, violet, and white.
Sweet potato is a dicotyledonous plant from “Convolvulaceae” family. It is also popular as “Morning Glory” because its flowers are called morning glories or “Tuberous Morning Glory”.
Though regular potato and sweet potato are both tubers, they are not closely related.
Sweet potatoes are healthier than regular potatoes because they are rich in vitamin A and antioxidants.
Cultivation and harvesting
More than a lakh acres of agricultural land is used to grow sweet potatoes. West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh take the lead in growing these tubers in India. Sweet potatoes are planted with small pieces of rooted tubers called slips. The crop takes 120 days to mature after it is planted. When the tubers mature, the leaves turn yellow. This is the right time to harvest these tubers by digging them out.
Sweet potato is easy to grow and is heat and drought-resistant. It can grow in a variety of soil, from sandy to loamy. But for best results, a combination of fertile sandy loamy soil with a good drainage system works well. Light sandy or heavy clay should be avoided. The pH should range from 5.7-6.8 for best results. Sweet potato is not affected by pests or diseases. However, it needs the warmth of the sun, and deep roots, it requires a lot of air space in the soil. Sweet potatoes are very sensitive to aluminium toxicity; therefore, compost or natural fertilizers or manure should be used.
Sowing and irrigation
It is essential to ensure the correct irrigation of sweet potatoes. After plantation, they should be irrigated once in 2 days for about 2 weeks followed by once a week. Three weeks before harvesting, irrigation should be halted. However, sweet potatoes should be irrigated two days before harvesting.
Sweet potatoes should be sown from January to February and harvested from April up till July.
The spacing between the rows should be 61cms and between the plants should be 32 cm. Sowing should be 20 cm to 25cms deep.
The root tuber cuttings to be planted should be treated approximately 8 to 10 minutes before planting to avoid being infected.
Sweet potatoes are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It aids in digestion as its high phytosterol content is ideal for our digestive system. It is known to prevent duodenal and gastric ulcers.
Sweet potatoes also have a lot of vitamin B and vitamin C. It is high in beta-carotene, which helps the conversion of vitamin A to increase absorption. This helps in maintaining a healthy vision. It is also packed in minerals like iron, calcium and selenium. Anthocyanin-rich purple sweet potato is shown to improve brain function and has anti-ageing properties.
The peel of sweet potato, especially the purple variety, is known to reduce the oxidation process, therefore decreasing the risk of lung cancer. This type also induces the growth of healthy gut bacteria. So, it is advisable not to peel the tuber before cooking it. Just clean and scrub away the dirt.
Amount – Per 100gms:
Total Carbohydrates20 g
Dietary fibre 3g
Sugar 4.2 g
Protein 1.6 g
Vitamin A 283%
Vitamin C 4%
Vitamin B- 6 10 %