November 13, 2013

Natural Foodie: Maine-grown sweet potatoes for the Thanksgiving table? Sweet!

Local farmers are increasingly producing the tropical root.

By Avery Yale Kamila

(Continued from page 1)

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Maine-grown sweet potatoes at the farmers market.

Avery Yale Kamila photo

Where to find Maine-grown sweet potatoes

Visit your local farmers market, nearby farm stand or locally-owned health food store and chances are you’ll find Maine-grown sweet potatoes.

Or visit, where the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association offers a searchable guide to certified organic farms. By using the search term “sweet potatoes” you can find a number of Maine farms growing this root vegetable.



Avery’s maple Cajun roasted sweet potatoes

4 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes, roughly 4 sweet potatoes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon maple syrup

½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning (such as Maine-made Crazy Dick’s)

½ teaspoon finely ground sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes with oil and spices and then place in a large cast iron skillet. Roast for 40 minutes, stirring ever 10 minutes or so, until the edges are slightly crispy. Serves 4 to 6.

VARIATION: Substitute chili powder for Cajun seasoning to give these sweet potatoes a Mexican twist.

Most farmers in Maine use a heated greenhouse and keep the temperature above 60 degrees and closer to 80 degrees, if possible.

The curing brings out the root vegetable’s sweetness.

“If you buy them at the farmers market, you should ask whether they’ve been cured first,” Sideman said.

But, Sideman adds, that’s really a question for earlier in the season. All the sweet potatoes grown in Maine this year were harvested long before the cool autumn nights arrived.

Sweet potatoes react badly to cold temperatures, and Maine farmers know to shield them from cool weather and protect them from exposure to temperatures below the low 50s.

For cooks this means sweet potatoes should be stored on the counter or in a cupboard, but never in the refrigerator.

“They suffer chilling injury if they get cooler than 50 degrees,” said Sideman, who stores his sweet potatoes in a heated mudroom. “At 60 degrees you can keep them for at least a year. We’re eating sweet potatoes that are two years old and they’re fine.”

To Sideman it’s obvious why sweet potatoes have proved a profitable crop for Maine’s small farmers.

“It not the same kind of product you find in the supermarket,” Sideman said. “It’s a locally produced garden vegetable.”


Avery Yale Kamila is a freelancer who lives in Portland, where she’s enjoys Maine-grown sweet potatoes and writes about health food. She can be reached at:

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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