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how to locate/ID Okinawan purple sweet potatoes

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Updated September 16, 2014 at 8:10 PM
Created June 20, 2013 at 9:51 PM

Hello everyone,

After reading the Mark's Daily Apple article here about sweet potatoes:

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/difference-yams-sweet-potatoes/

I decided to try and find some purple sweet potatoes. There are only 3 stores in my area I know of that carry them (2 Asian supermarkets and a regional chain that competes with Whole Foods). I keep running into two problems:

  1. There is no consistent and/or precise naming scheme for purple sweet potatoes. I have seen the following labels at different times at different stores, all of which referred to the same variety of purple sweet potato:

    • purple sweet potato
    • purple yam
    • Okinawan purple sweet potato
  2. I have purchased purple sweet potatoes from each of the 3 stores sold under each of the labels above, and all of them have been very dry and bland-tasting, just as Mark described in the article:

"There???s another variety that looks extremely similar but has a lightly violet interior streaked with white. It???s starchier and far drier than the Okinawans, and it doesn???t taste nearly as good."

Clearly the ones I bought that were labeled "Okinawan purple sweet potato" were mislabeled.

Has anyone been able to find the purple sweet potatoes that Mark describes in the article:

"They are white skinned with a deep, brilliant purple interior that becomes velvety smooth and incredibly sweet when baked."

Robb Wolf described them as the "birthday cake sweet potato" in one of his podcasts (Ep. 76).

If so, is there a more specific/precise name these potatoes go by? Where do you buy yours at? Are they a seasonal item? I've only looked for them this past April.

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26017 · June 25, 2013 at 11:56 AM

At least in the mid-atlantic, okinawan sweet potatoes are only available October - January. Even during that time there not consistency in flavor...

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8057 · June 20, 2013 at 11:26 PM

Funny, I grew up on Okinawa and NEVER, EVER saw a purple sweet potato there. But when I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii 20 years later, there was a small potato with purple flesh they called the "Okinawan Sweet Potato". It was more like a red or new potato on the sweet side than the yellow or garnet sweet potatoes I'm used to. Whether that was the "official" Okinawan sweet potato I have no clue. We buy purple potatoes on the mainland (usually at Trader Joes) but they are not called Okinawan and aren't that sweet.

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