Friday, July 28, 2006

African Stew with Sweet Potato Leaves

This spicy stew uses my latest Farmer's Market discovery: sweet potato leaves!

I didn't find a lot of recipes out there for sweet potato leaves, but I knew I was on to a good thing with Roy's Sauce a L'Afrique - a spicy, tomato sauce over potatoes and peas. I adapted the sauce recipe quite a bit, so I'm including my version below.

So here's what the leaves look like before cooking:

The leaves are pointy and look like a cross between ivy and purslane, with thick stalks. The taste is hard to describe: sweeter than spinach, although similar in texture, but none of that teeth-squeakiness. While it cooked, it had a faint basil aroma, but the taste was, well, starchy, vaguely nutty for greens. Truth be told: they have their own wonderful distinct taste and texture that I highly recommend.

While I researched sweet potato leaves, I came across this great piece by Marc at Mental Masala . Marc also includes a recipe for stir-fried Sweet Potato Leaves. The Farmer's Market vendor also recommended stir-frying them in a little oil, then adding tomatoes.

I will definitely make this stew again. Other variants I might try are adding coconut milk and eggplant.

African Stew with Sweet Potato Leaves (2-3 servings):

1 large bunch Sweet Potato Leaves, washed leaves and a thick stalks removed
12 oz baby Dutch potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 cup fresh English peas
I onion, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tomatoes, cored and chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
water or vegetable broth as needed (I used water)
1 tsp harissa
2 shakes of cayenne
3-4 oz firm tofu, cubed

Put the baby potatoes in a saucepan with water to cover and bring to a boil. Simmer until almost tender, then add peas and cook additional 4 minutes. Drain.

Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the onion gently for 3-4 mins until softened. Add the garlic and cook a few more minutes. Add the tomato, tomato paste, harissa, cayenne, tofu, and a little water and cook over low heat, adding water as needed to maintain a sauce. Cook gently for around 8 minutes and add the sweet potato leaves. Cook until leaves are tender. Add the potatoes and peas to the skillet and cook another 2-3 minutes. Serve!


Blogger christine said...

Catherine, Thanks so much for this informative post! I'd never heard of using sweet potato leaves in anything before. And your references only added more delight to my education. If I can get the leaves up here in my part of the world, I'll definitely try your recipe.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

Wow! I've never even seen sweet potatoe leaves here either! I thought I was being radical (for the area that I live in) by using sweet potatoes! If I can find some ....! Is anything similar in taste and texture, just in case I cant?


9:30 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

HI Christine - thank you! It's very exciting to me that there are still veggies out there I've never tried!

Dianne - LOL. I have to say, I prefer the leaves to the actual potatoes. I can't think of anything that tastes quite like them which makes them quite a find. However, if you look at Roy's recipe, it includes growing your own in a window box.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Tanna said...

Your words are really making me wish I could find these sweet potato leaves! I love spinach but these sound really grand. It is wonderful to know there are lots of new things to try yet in the world.
I'm going to look for them.
The stew looks terrific.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

Thanks Catherine! I'll grow some! I cant, in my wildest dreams, imagine that I will find them anywhere for sale!


10:57 AM  
Blogger Chloe said...

i had never heard of sweet potato leaves before! in fact i never imagined potatoes WITH leaves. thanks!

4:25 PM  
Blogger Nerissa said...

I didn't know you could eat their leaves! This sounds like a dish I would enjoy. I doubt I'll come across these any time soon but it is interesting to keep the recipe just in case.

You say it had a nutty taste. Do you mean a nuttiness like arugala?

6:14 AM  
Blogger Melody said...

Wow! You learn something new everyday.. I have never heard of Sweet Potato Leaves... Love your blog!

2:24 PM  
Blogger Urban Vegan said...

This looks amazing and healthy.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

Hi Nerissa - what's great about these leaves is there's no bitterness or bitter aftertaste.

Welcome Urban Vegan - it was, and delish!

1:27 PM  
Blogger Vanessa said...

Sweet potato leaves - wow! Great find, great post. Thanks. Your recipe adaptation sounds great... maybe it would work with kale for those of us who aren't lucky enough to find sweet potato leaves. But, I may be crazy here, I think I'm growing some on my fire escape flower garden. Could this be? It doesn't look quite like your photos. I'm growing the plant for "looks" as it's a beautiful lime green cascading plant. Last year my sister tried to dig the plant up and we got quite a kick out the little sweet potato tuber the vine was attached to. Don't worry, we didn't try to eat it.

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are from a great country like Ghana. You learn to eat from your land. This is not knew. Thank you for educating those who are not aware of these leaves. There are many other foods they eat that we are not aware of in the United States.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Hawaii I grow sweet potatoes and have been eating the potatoes leaves all my life.

Here is a very simple basic recipe

I never measure anything

steam sweet potato leaves
cut up some raw tomatoes
sprinkle a little bit of salt to taste

That's it you are done...healthy, cheap, simple, easy, delicious....

10:22 PM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would encourage anyone who can't find the leaves at a market to try growing them at home---ANYBODY can grow them; they are easy in moist, but well-drained soil. (If you are trying to harvest the TUBERS, you need 100-150hot, humid days, so this might not work out in places with a limited growing season)

I have been growing sweet potatos for years and never knew you could eat the leaves!! I have read that sweet potato leaves are also high in protein and lutein, second only to marigold petals. Also, hens who are allowed to eat SP leaves lay eggs with richer yolks and higher lutein levels! SP leaves are used in traditional medicine to treat all sorts of ailments, too!

To think that I have been wishing I could grow a leafy green in our hot, Georgia summers, and all the while I've had these growing under my nose!!! I CAN'T WAIT to try these recipes (and feed some to my chickens!)--thanks guys!!

(Vanessa--I've also read that you can eat the ornamental SP leaves--just make sure they haven't been sprayed with any poisons!! The little tubers are also edible, but obviously not as tasty as the highly-hybridized tubers that were developed specifically for eating, not aesthetics!)

3:26 PM  
Anonymous David Bryant Kingsland Tx said...

we have been growing vegetables in our church garden and taking them to a local distribution center for poor families. We have a plot of sweet potatoes that is about ten feet wide by seventy feet long and it is covered with beautiful leaves. We have already made one pass through digging potatoes and the plants are still going strong. We thought we would wait into December to really dig up the bed in hopes that more potatoes would be produced. I read about the leaves being good to eat so I brought some home today and tried them stir fried with garlic and jalapeno. They were great. I am considering taking some of them to the distribution center now.

10:16 AM  
Anonymous said...

There is another recipe that uses sweet potato leaves that i make. I learned it from my sons father who is from africa. it uses goat meat, red,yellow,and green peppers, tomatoes, onions, eggplant,tomato paste, beef bullion cubes, sweet potato leaves, habanaro peppers, and its served on rice. It is a very wonderfull dish

10:08 AM  

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