Sweet Potato Capital Of The World?

Sweet potatoes are a popular dish all across Mississippi. Many Jackson restaurants serve sweet potato fries as a side dish or appetizer. Other sweet potato dishes on local menus include: sweet potato puree, chopped sweet potato, mashed sweet potatoes and even sweet potato tempura at Jackson's Japanese restaurants.

We associate white potatoes with Ireland and Irish history because of its presence in Irish foods and the great potato famine. Sweet potatoes are a southern twist on the white, Irish version, and the Sweet Potato Queens—a hometown Jackson tradition—are even more of a local twist. Boss Queen Jill Conner Browne named the group for the sweet potato capital of the world, which is right here in Mississippi and is near her hometown.

Vardaman, Miss., is home to the famous Magnolia Medley sweet potato company. Located in North Mississippi in Calhoun County, Vardaman is host to the annual National Sweet Potato Festival the first week of November. According to the Magnolia Medley's Web site (http://www.magnoliamedley.com), the company is formed around a co-op of sweet potato farmers in and around Vardaman and is famous for their fire-roasting method of cooking sweet potatoes. The company also focuses on the potato's nutritional facts: "Magnolia Medley sweet potatoes deliver a power punch of vitamins and fiber with no fat and boast a textured, satisfying taste," the site states.

How can anyone resist perfectly nutritious sweet potatoes that are home grown in our very own state?

Magnolia Medley offers their sweet potatoes in a variety of ways using the fire-roasting method, including fire-roasted chunk, baked and mashed. They also provide recipes like Sweet Potato and Pear Bisque and Sweet Potatoes O'Brien served with chicken-apple sausage. Another popular recipe is sweet potato and cornbread dressing. This particular dish is perfect for Thanksgiving, but it would be compatible with any Irish feast. These products are available from the company's headquarters in Vardaman by phone or by sending a message via the company's Web site. And when you eat the famous dishes, remember Mississippi's own Sweet Potato Queens and the joyous spirit of St. Paddy's!

Black Bean, Sweet Potato and Pork Soup
Courtesy Hal & Mal's

Ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 pounds pork tenderloin, cubed
4 tablespoons flour
2 pablano peppers
4 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
3 tablespoons chopped capers
1 tablespoon cumin
2 cups white wine
1 can black beans
2 quarts chicken stock
2 quarts vegetable stock
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
12 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro

Add olive oil, pork and flour to a 2-gallon pot and sear. Add peppers, onion, celery and capers to the pot and cook for 10 minutes. Add cumin, wine, and black beans and cook for 5-10 minutes. Add both broths and herbs de Provence and cook until the pork is done. Add sweet potatoes and cilantro and cook at a rapid boil until the potatoes are done, or about 10 minutes. Makes 32 6-ounce cups.


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