When I was at the store earlier this week, there were a few different varieties of sweet potatoes and they were all on sale. There were Japanese sweet potatoes, purple sweet potatoes and garnets. So I bought one of each thinking it would be interesting to compare the flavours and textures of each. When I brought them home, I decided to cook them alongside our regular variety from our local farm. I don’t know what variety it is – apparently there are 16 varieties of sweet potatoes! How many have you tried?!

sweet potato varieties
Regular, Japanese, Garnet, Purple

The one on the far left is from the farm – I assumed it’s a garnet sweet potato but after reading about the 16 varieties, I’m not so sure. I’ll ask next time I’m there.

I had had the Japanese variety before. They’re a white sweet potato that is very sweet and dryer than the orange sweet potatoes I’m used to. But they do have a unique flavour and I hadn’t had one in many years so I was excited about that one.

3 sweet potato varieties
Insides: Garnet, Japanese, Purple

The purple potato was entirely new to me. It’s purple all the way through. I was concerned that it would bleed (like beets) but it didn’t.

I cubed all the potatoes and coated them lightly in olive oil and sprinkled them in a bit of salt. Then I baked them at 400 for about 40 minutes.

The whole point of this experiment was to give the kids a chance to taste what I thought would be subtle differences between the varieties, determine which ones they liked and to recognize that we all have different preferences.

But it was a weeknight and the kids had their Christmas concert so it wasn’t the leisurely taste test I had envisioned. (It turned out our Christmas advent calendar activity was to sing Christmas carols together so at least that worked out well.)

Roasted sweet potatoes with black beans and quinoa.
Cubed and roasted sweet potatoes with black beans and quinoa.

Since the emphasis was on the subtle flavour differences between the three (or four) varieties of sweet potatoes, I kept everything else plain. Plain quinoa. Plain black beans. (And chipotle mayo for the grown-ups.)

As you can see, the purple potato kept its rich colour – in fact, it darkened to a very pretty purple. The Japanese potatoes ended up a creamy colour and the garnets were bright orange. The farm-bought sweet potato looked the same as the garnet and we didn’t taste a difference.

My daughter said the Japanese sweet potato was her favourite. She thinks they taste like candy. We all agreed (not about the candy. She thinks roasted beets taste like candy. It’s where her mind goes when she likes something). But we all agreed that the Japanese sweet potato was creamy and the sweetest and that the flavour differences were not subtle at all.

Surprisingly, the purple potato was our least favourite. It was the driest and least sweet of them all. Not that I wouldn’t buy them again since they were stunning and delicious but I would follow Saveur’s advice and cook them at a lower temperature to see it that makes a difference.

What kind of sweet potato do you eat in your part of the world?

3 thoughts on “Sweet potato taste test

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