Sweet Potatoes

A picture of sweet potatoes.
Llez / Wikipedia

Europeans, Brits and Canadians are responding to an aggressive campaign marketing sweet potatoes from North Carolina.

"The sweet potato to them is new, it's like an exotic fruit almost, or an exotic vegetable. They don't know a lot about it," said Kelly McIver of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

North Carolina is America's largest producer of sweet potatoes.

Stephanie Tyson
Leoneda Inge

If you have lived in North Carolina for any amount of time, you have likely heard this is the sweet potato state.  More sweet potatoes are grown here than anywhere else in the country.

So this Thanksgiving, there are bound to be sweet potato side dishes on many tables.

A picture of sweet potatoes.
Llez / Wikipedia

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving millions of dollars to North Carolina State University to research sweet potatoes.  The grant is aimed at developing new breeding tools to improve crop production in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Craig Yencho heads the university's sweet potato breeding program and is the project director.  He said sweet potatoes already feed millions of people in the region.

"It's a very hardy crop," said Yencho. "It can resist drought and heat very well.  It can be grown in a really wide range of soil types and it produces a lot of food per acre.”

NC Sweet Potato Commission

Buyers of sweet potatoes grown in North Carolina will likely pay more for them at the market this year. North Carolina sweet potato growers have led the nation for years in producing the root crop.  State agriculture estimates are that Tar Heels last year produced about 47 percent of the crop nationally.

But Sue Johnson-Langdon of the non-profit North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission says this year's yield fell victim to mid-year rainfall that ranks among the wettest in more than a century.