I only recently learned you can eat sweet potato greens. Apparently entire continents already knew this, which leaves me feeling a bit left out, like I did when I learned you can eat squash greens, too.
For my maiden voyage with this new-to-me green, I went the safe route and sauteed and seasoned it up in such a way that, frankly, it would make almost anything taste good, with a whole head of garlic, lots of thyme, balsamic vinegar, and a bit of heat from red pepper flakes.
Here’s what I did:
After picking the greens, stem and all (I harvested it with a small pair of scissors, very easy to do), I had my assistant wash them for me in about 3 rinses of water.
I chopped them up coarsely.
Then set them aside while I prepared my seasonings: a whole head of freshly-dug garlic, several sprigs of thyme, and one jalapeno pepper.
I sauteed these first, until the garlic was beginning to become translucent.
Then I added the chopped greens.
Plus a generous pinch of red pepper flakes, balsamic vinegar, sesame seeds, and sauteed until the leaves became tender but not mushy. In hindsight, I should have toasted the sesame seeds earlier when I sauteed the garlic for more sesame flavor. I’ve adjusted the recipe below to reflect that.
If your greens are having a little trouble getting tender enough for your preferences, you can add about a half cup of water, cover and steam for a few minutes. I had tossed in a few plantain leaves and these were tougher than the sweet potato leaves so I steamed it briefly as described for about 1o minutes to soften the plantain.
Here’s the link to the nutrition data on sweet potato greens. They’re a significant source of fiber, vitamins A, C, thiamine, riboflavin, B6, and magnesium (and more).
And they’re delicious. I can’t even tell I picked from my sweet potato patch, and from what I understand, occasional pickings won’t harm the productivity of my patch, potato-wise. In fact, some greens-harvesting can help the plant by concentrating the plant’s energy to root (potato) formation. AND, since the sweet potatoes are threatening to take over a part of my yard as well as their garden area, I can keep them at bay the tasty way by trimming the escapee vines and eating them, rather than mowing them down.
For those of you who prefer an actual recipe to a general guideline, here are the specifics:
Spicy Sauteed Sweet Potato Greens with Thyme and Fresh Garlic
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
A nice big colander full of sweet potato greens, stems and all, washed and coarsely chopped
1 head of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, chopped
1-2 Tablespoons lightly packed fresh thyme leaves
generous pinch red pepper flakes
2-3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
Salt and black pepper to taste
Heat a heavy, large, skillet over medium heat. Add a nice glug of olive oil, enough to generously coat the bottom of the skillet. Saute chopped garlic, pepper, sesame seeds and thyme until the garlic is beginning to cook, and the seeds are starting to toast.
Add chopped greens and stir until coated with oil and beginning to soften. Add more olive oil if necessary.
Add balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook until the greens are fully wilted and tender. If necessary, add about 1/2 cup water and cover to briefly steam. Remove cover and allow water to evaporate before serving.
These are great as a side dish with hearty beans, rice, and/or fish. We had it with a simple canned salmon loaf and it was just the right addition.