If you are a fan of sweet potatoes like us, then you would surely know the pain in preparing them. They are delicious but so hard to cut through, especially if you get the bigger ones. Cutting sweet potatoes is a really frustrating mix of jammed blades, cuts going the wrong way and sometimes occasional accidents.
While cutting their cousin potatoes is quite an easy task then why are these delicious and healthy treats so damn hard to cut? Is it their genetic makeup? What makes them so hard? Let’s find out!
The main reason for sweet potatoes being hard to cut is their density and molecular size. The individual molecules of sweet potatoes are much smaller than those of potatoes and hence the overall density of sweet potatoes increases which give them their natural hardness. These molecules of sweet potatoes are packed much tighter together as compared to other vegetables. In this regard, they resemble carrots and butternut squash.
Now you might be wondering why they are called sweet potatoes then? The reason is the historical adventure story of Columbus. When Columbus and his crew first landed in America, the sweet potatoes were already a significant crop of the native population. The most common name at the time was ‘batata’, which then got mixed with West Andes word for potatoes and the result was ‘patata.’ Hence all the confusion.
As time went on, the name still existed. Since sweet potatoes look like elongated regular potatoes and their significance as the nutritious crop was just like that of potatoes they got their name and became potato’s cousin!
There is a stark difference between potatoes and sweet potatoes. Regular potatoes are starchy and grainy whereas sweet potatoes are firmer and compact.
Sweet potatoes are also called yams. And this naming is also quite confusing as there is no specific vegetable that was named as the original yam. Instead, several tubers are called yams in various parts of the world.
Yams – Entire collection of tubers from Colocasia esculenta to Oxalis tuberosa to Amorphophallus paeoniifolius, up to Ipomoea batatas. Yams are more of a ‘type’ than an actual, specific vegetable.
Another reason sweet potatoes are so hard to cut aside from their density is their stickiness. Owing to their high sugar content, sweet potatoes are really sticky.
About 4.2 grams of sugar per 100 grams of raw sweet potato is present. That’s a little over 4% for the entire tuber. Remember that sweet, caramel flavour roasted sweet potatoes have? It’s due to the release of sugar sap. That very sugar sap is released when we try slicing through a sweet potato. This makes the knife work complicated as the sap sticks to the blade and it then sticks to the potato’s flesh, making the entire process harder.
And so you either get stuck up wiggling your knife out of sweet potato or end up cutting it at an awkward angle. Trust me it is even more difficult to slice it through with a thicker blade. But there’s a saviour way around this. Want to know?
Generally, sweet potatoes end up in a stew, a mash, a puree and rarely as a fry. Do not worry! This method will work efficiently even if you are looking to make those delicious fries or wedges. Let’s take a look at it.
Logically the first thing that comes to mind when raw vegetables are hard to cut is cooking them to a certain degree- fully or partially.
First, peel the potatoes completely and chop off the ends. Place them in a pot with cold water and bring them to a boil. Then let it simmer for at least half an hour or cook them in the microwave for about 10 minutes on low heat. The potatoes will soften this way and hence would be easier to slice through.
Now, the degree of cooking depends on the dish you are making. So, if you want sweet potatoes to be soft for mashed potatoes or cream soup, cook them thoroughly. On the other hand, if you need them for stew then soften them just a bit (assuming you would want some bite to them).
And if you want to make fries or wedges using them then here’s our recommendation. If you have small potatoes, keep them whole. But if you have large ones then cut them in half (as best as you can) and then only boil them a little. They just need to soften enough for your knife to slice through just like regular potatoes. This can be as quick as 10-15 minutes after the water is boiling.