Ahhhh, the sweet potato! I love these. I first tried this very, very distant cousin of the normal potato, 20 years ago when I was a child on holidays in Seattle visiting family for Thanksgiving. I’m not sure what is more memorable, to tell the truth; the trip or tasting these guys for the first time. I came home bragging about my juvenile holiday romance with yams. So naturally I grew up, I always found it funny that sweet potatoes weren’t already a “thing” in Ireland. Do we like potatoes? Why don’t we eat sweet potatoes!? (But I did feel cool knowing what they were.)
Thankfully, we copped on to these super nutritious strong roots. Native to Peru and Ecuador, the sweet potato has since been grown around the world. At the moment our ‘Strong Roots’ sweet potatoes (along with 90% of all others in Europe) come from North Carolina in the U.S. where they go from the field to factory all on the one sustainable farm. Super sustainable strong roots.
And so with that, I get to share a secret. There are trials being carried out in North County Dublin, growing sweet potatoes! The specialists behind this include David Flynn, from Rush who’s presently growing 7 varieties of sweet potatoes, and Pat Fitzgerald, a Kilkenny man who happens to be Europe’s leading specialist for sweet potato growth, ready to take full advantage of the gorgeous alluvial soils Ireland is so famous for. So we’re striving to provide lots of delicious Strong Roots Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries for our hungry mouths! This is brilliant. As a farmer’s son from North County Dublin; I love this. It couldn’t be closer to my heart. Why? It’s easy. We’ll benefit nutritiously, environmentally and economically, providing and stimulating jobs locally, and locally grown food always tastes even better! So hopefully one day soon we will be growing lots of our own Irish sweet potatoes. This is a great aim to have.
I was delighted to get to learn more about sweet potatoes writing this piece. So basically, they’re the edible part of the plant root, and they store all the nutrients and energy to keep the plant alive above ground. I like to compare the sweet potato to a battery, bursting with benefits. Its natural composition means that it’s such a strong root vegetable, it attracts natural fertilisers when growing, so it doesn’t need to be as heavily fertilised by farmers, keeping our planet’s soils, rivers and waterways cleaner. We can’t lose.
The colour of the inside of the sweet potato tells us how sweet the taste is, so the more orange, the sweeter the taste! We all love to have lots of colours on our plates. We eat with our eyes as much with our mouths. Is it any wonder why the sweet potato is so popular? Our muscles need the energy to work, and sweet potatoes are a fantastic source of healthy complex carbohydrates. The sweetest thing about these guys is the sucrose in it, making it a deliciously sweet superfood.
What nutrients and benefits the sweet potato has to offer us:
Good for eyes, skin and immune system
An antioxidant protecting us from cancers and chronic diseases
An antioxidant protecting us from chronic diseases and good for our Immune System
Balances our blood sugars and good for our digestive system
Promotes cell growth, our metabolism and important before and during pregnancy
Following their delicious debut launch at the Ploughing Championships, Strong Roots Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries are the obvious option for my future healthy comfort food cravings. I’m always excited about clever new Irish products that will leave me happy without the guilt. Thankfully the days of woe are over and I’ve got these guys now! And at the risk of sounding even more über cheesy, I get to relive my juvenile holiday romance with this strong root vegetable and brag about it all over again.
-James Joseph McGrath