This is the third instalment in the preservation and processing series. So I have covered avocados and bananas; today I am looking at sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes in themselves are big business but there is more. I always encourage farmers to pursue value addition as it brings in more money. Preservation is also necessary as it brings convenience to farmers, consumers, and processors. So, let us get into ways of preserving and processing sweet potatoes. This is relevant especially to the Zimbabwean context because people rarely consider these two. It can literally be a game-changer for some of you reading this.
You start by washing then peeling them. That is followed by cutting them into smaller units – whichever works for you. The next step is to steam, roast, or boil them. When that is done you allow them to cool off. If you can your next step can be to flash-freeze them. This is great in that it helps ensure there is no unnecessary liquid moisture before the next step. Then you place them in airtight containers. Once all that is done, you can place the containers in the freezer. With this method, your sweet potatoes can last up to a full year.
You wash them first as usual then you drill holes into them. This is essential to create air vents for when you ultimately bake them. You proceed to place them in preheated oven and bake them for at most 2 hours. Afterwards, you allow them to cool off and then you place them in airtight plastic bags. Alternatively, you can just wrap them with foil paper. Then you place them in a freezer and your sweet potatoes should last up to a year.
You prepare them as you would your mashed potatoes. You allow the mashed sweet potatoes to cool off. You then transfer the mash into airtight containers. They can then be placed inside a freezer. Any time you want to eat, you just thaw and enjoy them anyhow you want.
You do the usual i.e. you wash them first, then you peel them. Proceed to cut them into slices with considerable thickness. Making sure they are evenly sliced will help inconsistency when drying. You can then treat them with spices, oil and the like of your preference. This is not mandatory though – you can do without this step if you do not need it. The next step will depend on what you have i.e. you can use a dehydrator. If you do not have that you can use an oven. The idea is to get them to a point where they have a crispness and are somewhat crunchy.
The next step will entail periodically shaking whilst drying them. You can do this for as many as 7 days. You shake them as they are in an airtight container at most twice a day during that period. Shaking will help you see if there is still moisture available. Once that is all done you can transfer them to airtight containers or plastic bags. Containers can be glass, plastic or even boxes. You will not freeze them but rather you will simply keep them in a cool and dry spot (away from direct sunlight).
Sweet Potato Chips
Just you do for potatoes; you can do the same for sweet potatoes. There are over 15 different ways in which you can make these chips just like for potatoes. This also shows you that you can even diversify into other value-added products such as crackers, for instance.
Sweet Potato Flour
Start by washing, then peeling and slicing them into very thin pieces. This is followed by drying them till they are literally brittle. You can dry using the sun or a dryer. You then grind them once sufficiently dried. You keep grinding (followed by sifting) the coarse mixture till you are left with fine flour.
Sweet Potato Juice Or Drinks
You will need sweet potatoes, refined sugar, citric acid, and ascorbic acid. You start by diluting the sweet potatoes with water and then you steam. After steaming you add to a blender and the next step is filtering. You will then proportionally mix the filtrate with refined sugar, citric acid, and ascorbic acid. This was followed by straining and collecting in a bottle. You then boil and pasteurize for a few minutes.
Sweet Potato Jam
It is quite simple to make jam out of sweet potatoes – few ingredients needed. You need sweet potatoes that have been steamed, water, refined sugar, and fruit citric acid (food grade). Mix the steamed sweet potatoes with water, refined sugar and then add to blender. After blending you cook the resulting mixture. You then add the citric acid and leave it to cool off. You can then store the jam in glass or plastic jars.
Sweet Potato Liquor
Sweet potatoes can be made into beer or even wines. Making such usually entails extracting the juice. The juice can actually be extracted from sweet potato blends. For instance, brown sugar, spices and other ingredients can be added to sliced sweet potatoes and then blended. Juice is then extracted and put through a fermentation process. The approaches are plenty.
Sweet Potato Noodles
For sweet potato noodles, you will need a spiralizer. It is recommended to use thin sweet potatoes to make it easy to use the spiralizer. You start by washing, peeling, and drying the sweet potatoes. You will then take them through the spiralizer. If you do not have one you can use a peeler or other makeshift method to spiralize. This will then be followed by cooking them – you can add spices to your liking. Make sure to keeping stirring to ensure they do not get stuck to the base. Cooking for a short or long period is informed by how you want the result to be like. Cook for a bit longer (something like ten minutes) if you want softer and tenderer noodles.
There is a lot to get out of sweet potatoes; plenty of business prospects. It is not only just the sweet potatoes themselves that can be eaten. Both the leaves and the shoots can also be eaten and processed into value-added products.