When my husband is on his own for any length of time, veggies fall off his plate. While I was traveling last week, he texted me a photo of the dinner he’d prepared—a giant steak.
“That’s beautiful,” I typed back, “but where are the veggies?”
His reply: “MUSHROOMS, LEAH, MUSHROOMS!” (Cap locks all his.)
No surprise, then, that I found little in the way of vegetables in the refrigerator as I contemplated preparing my first meal at home in a week.
Not keen on a trip to the store, I realized the sweet potato vines I’d trimmed that morning were available and ready to fill in as the perfect greens.
Using All That Plant
Every winter, I receive beau coups of sweet potatoes in my CSA box. Invariably, a few languish in the kitchen counter pile and, despite our best efforts to eat every one, some spuds sprout.
In the early spring (in Texas, this means March), I plant these slips in our garden; the resulting vines form a lovely, decorative leafy ground cover and trailing addition to planters and pots. Even in the brutal heat of the summer, the sweet potato vines look good, and the big leaves provide nice shade for my mint.
By September’s theoretically cooler weather, the vines have crawled over my basil and attempted to take over the garden. So I trim. But what to do with all those vines?
In the development of my “waste not, want not” philosophy, I’ve discovered that those trimmed sweet potato leaves are a healthy, handy, and tasty source of greens.
Health Benefits of Sweet Potato Greens
According to a report from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, sweet potatoes (which they weirdly write as “sweetpotatoes”) are essentially a super food, used as sustenance for people and livestock, and in alcohol production (check it out in the “Read More Here” links).
But it’s the leaves, or tops, that really pack a healthy punch. According to the report, sweet potato greens are “rich in vitamin B, ßcarotene, iron, calcium, zinc and protein.” In addition, they are “an excellent source of antioxidative polyphenolics, among them anthocyanins and phenolics, and are superior to other commercial vegetables. The nutritional value of sweet potato leaves is gaining recognition, as the understanding between diet and health increases.
Sweet potato leaves with their high nutritive value and antioxidants [are] an excellent leafy vegetable.”
What’s more, the vines continue to grow as long as the root remains in the ground, so the sweet potato vine continually regenerates as it is trimmed, providing a whole lotta fresh greens. Trust me on this.
And who am I to argue with NASA, which recommends the sweet potato as an important food source for space cultivation?
Cooking Sweet Potato Greens
- Clip the vine as you’d like; I prefer to trim from several different vines than take all of one. As long as you don’t dig out the root, the vines will grow.
- While the leaf stems are edible, I pluck the leaves off, using only the tenderest stems (fiber!) and chucking the bigger stems and tougher vines into the compost.
- Like other greens, a huge pile quickly cooks down to not that much, so harvest lots.
- Treat the greens as you would spinach or collards; don’t overcook. They’re ready in mere minutes. A gentle sauté or blanching preserves the most nutrients.
- Try raw, frozen, chopped leaves in smoothies for a green kick.
Hash with Sweet Potato Greens
So what did I make for dinner?
We (because meal preparation is a team event at Chateau Nyfeler) created a tasty hash by cooking frozen potato rounds with onions, chopped peppers from the garden, and butter in a cast iron skillet. We next browned 8 oz. of ground lamb in the skillet, adding handfuls of sweet potato tops when the lamb was done and cooking until just wilted. Using a spoon, we created four depressions in the skillet mixture and cracked an egg into each, heating until the whites were set and the yolks still runny (approximately 5 minutes).
I rolled the leftovers–such that there were–into corn tortillas for delicious breakfast tacos.
Between my homegrown greens and peppers and miscellaneous items in the freezer, I completely avoided a trip to the store and utilized my yard trimmings.
Winner winner sweet potato dinner!
Read More Here: