Instead of sweet potatoes from the market that are breed for sweet flesh, I used the sweet potatoes from the garden center that are bred for ornamental foliage. The two plants – grocery store sweet potatoes and garden center sweet potatoes – are the same plant, Ipomoea batatas, just different cultivars.
My quest was to see if the ornamental sweet potatoes bred to look pretty in gardens are sweet enough to warrant eating. I normally toss these tubers every year when I do garden clean-up, but this year curiosity got the better of me.
I dug the tubers from three different ornamental sweet potato cultivars (Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Red, Marguerite, and Ace of Spades), threw them in my car, and forgot about them for a few weeks. So, unfortunately, when it came time to identify which tuber was which, I had no clue. A good scientist I do not make!
Confusing picture. Four potatoes, but three cultivars - last two are the same cultivar.
I boiled and roasted some of each variety, and then it was time for the individual taste tests. They were all sweet, none drastically more so than the next. And was I glad, because if one was better than the other, I was going to kick myself for letting the tubers roll around the back of my car for weeks, and not remembering which was which.
So, on to the bourbon-walnut sweet potato recipe in Bon Appètit. Trying to be a good scientist, I made a control batch from sweet potatoes from the market. Yum. A sweet, but more rustic dish than the baked sweet potato soufflé typically topped with marshmallows. I adore the marshmallows, by the way.
The mash made from the ornamental sweet potatoes, thanks to their collective white, yellow, and purple flesh, looks about as appetizing as dirty bath water. But guess what? In a blind taste test, they taste just as good as the store bought sweet potatoes bred for eating. The only thing that gives the ornamental sweet potatoes away, besides their color, is a slightly lumpier texture. But lumps can be cured with longer cooking or pureeing.
Bourbon-Walnut Sweet Potato Mash
Adapted from Bon Appètit
4 pounds sweet potatoes
½ cup whipping cream
6 tablespoons butter
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Roast whole potatoes on a baking sheet for 1 - 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Cool until you can handle, then scoop flesh into a large bowl. Mash potatoes coarsely.
- Heat cream and butter in a saucepan over low heat until butter melts. Slowly combine cream mixture into potatoes. Then add syrup, bourbon, and spices. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle with nuts and serve.