Potato Week: The Sweet Potato, Friend Or Foe?
Okay, so here’s the thing. We could make it through Potato Week without ever mentioning the humble sweet potato. We could gleefully thumb our noses at the thugs from the Sweet Potato Defense League and all their starchy ilk and completely ignore the most recent few years of culinary development in which the sweet potato has played a minor (though vitally important) role. We could ignore the pies, the fries, the waffles and pates, the mashes and smashes and stuffings and all the other things that are being done with sweet potatoes today and, in an iron-clad commitment to genetic purity, only lavish our Potato Week attentions on the solanum tuberosum end of the tuberous plant spectrum because, after all, the sweet potato (or ipomoea batatas), is only a distant relative of the potato, linked taxonomically at order solanales but then diverging rather markedly into the family of morning glories and other poisonous leafy things.
We could do all that. But the question is, should we? Sweet potatoes are a thing now. Have been since the first American burger slinger got it in his pointy little head to run a few swamp taters through his french fry cutter and blew his customers’ minds with a plate of deep-fried, browny-orange, sweet-and-salty shoestrings.
But is the sweet potato the equal of its more staid and solid cousin? Does the sweet potato deserve to share in the honors of Potato Week, or should it forever be relegated to the status of sweet but dimwitted also-ran? The weirdly sugary offspring of a poisonous branch of the potato family tree? We leave that for you to decide.