Tag Archives: Sweet Potato

Two Thanksgiving Myths Dispelled

Hello all!

This is the last blog post before Thanksgiving 2014. We hope you all have plans for a wonderful and safe holiday filled with joyful family reunions and friendship. Try not to let the stress of cooking for everyone get you down. We thought we would help you impress your guests this year by arming you with the facts to dispel two common Thanksgiving myths.

 

Public Domain Image via USDA

Public Domain Image via USDA

Turkey Does Not Make You Sleepy

 

It’s a oft-repeated trope of Thanksgiving that the amino acid tryptophan in the turkey makes everyone drowsy after the meal. Tryptophan is an important amino acid, and it is necessary for your body to manufacture serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters primarily responsible for mood and sleep. Low levels of serotonin cause depression, anxiety, and mood swings. However, turkey is no higher in tryptophan than other poultry meats, and actually contains less than chicken. The real reason you get sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal is that you’ve just stuffed yourself full of a massive portion of food. Blood is rushing to your stomach and your body is expending energy to digest all of that delicious food, so your body makes you feel tired so you don’t over-exert yourself while digesting. Imagine a boa constrictor that has just swallowed a large animal. It’s certainly not going to be doing much exercise after a meal like that.

 

You May Never Have Tasted a Yam

 

The word “yam” is colloquially used as a synonym for sweet potatoes. Most people refer to the long orange-skinned potatoes in the grocery store as “yams”. However, yams and sweet potatoes are not even distantly related. To complicate matters further, potatoes themselves are not related to either yams or sweet potatoes. Potatoes are in the Solanaceae family, yams are in the Dioscoreaceae family (say that one five times fast), and sweet potatoes are in the Convolvulaceae family. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are both dicots, meaning they have two embryonic seed leaves, while yams are monocots (they have only one embryonic seed leaf). This means that yams and sweet potatoes are as distantly related as two flowering plants can be.

 

By Llez (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Llez (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Yams are common in Africa- the top 8 of the top 10 world producers are African countries, followed by Papua New Guinea and Colombia. They are popular ingredients in African and Carribbean cuisines, due to their flexibility in culinary applications. They can be baked, grilled, barbecued, smoked, boiled, fried, roasted, or made into pie. Unfortunately, true yams are not nearly as common in the US, where they have been overtaken by sweet potatoes as a more common substitute.

 

Have a wonderful and safe holiday, everyone!

 

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Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup

Ingredients:Image

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 carrots, cut into ½” pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped into ½” pieces
  • 2 leeks, halved lengthwise and cut into ½” pieces
  • 3/4 cup dried yellow or red lentils
  • 1 4-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

  • Combine the sweet potato, carrots, onion, leeks, lentils, ginger, 3/4 teaspoon curry powder and 1 teaspoon salt in a 4-to-6-quart slow cooker. Add 6 cups water and stir, then cover and cook on low, undisturbed, 8 hours.
  • Stir the soup vigorously with a whisk to make a rough puree. Thin with hot water, if desired.
  • Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon curry powder and cook until the curry powder is slightly toasted, about 1 minute.
  • Stir the curry mixture into the soup and add the lemon juice, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste.