Sweet Potatoes: An Entirely Edible Plant
Did you know you could eat the vines and leaves of a sweet potato plant? Yes! The entire plant is edible. The vines and leaves are eaten in many Asian cultures. It’s the main ingredient of one of my favorite Korean side dishes: Gogumn Chilge Muchim.
Sweet potatoes need a lot of space to grow. We planted nine “slips” in the spring and our sweet potato patch occupies about 10 percent of our garden. It would be more if we didn’t contain the vines somewhat. This year, we built a simple tent trellis and have been shoving the vines back in their designated area and training them on the trellis to help keep the vines in check.
My mother usually comes over about mid-summer to raid our sweet potato patch. Together we whip up a batch of stir fry sweet potato vines. Traditionally the vines and leaves are harvested when the potatoes are dug up. But our vines are so abundant that removing a few dozen leaves and vines will not harm the harvest.
What do sweet potato vines taste like? It tastes like a mild, bitter green. Not as strong as kale or collards, but stronger than chard. Once the vines are stir fried with sesame oil and a bunch of garlic, the flavor takes on a whole new taste. If you like spinach and winter greens with garlic, you’ll like sweet potato vine. The leaves can be stir fried with the vines, but my mother likes to steam them and stuff them with rice with a little bit of sweet, red pepper paste.
There are health benefits too! Sweet potato vine is high in fiber and a good source of Vitamin E Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, and Folate. And very low in calories! Are you ready to give it a try?
The Sweet Potato vines have a thin, outer membrane that can be removed. It’s similar to removing the “string” from fresh green beans after you snap them. This step is optional. I prefer to remove the outer layer because is makes the vine tender.
- 1 TB of Vegetable Oil
- 1/4 lb of Sweet Potato Vines
- 1-4 Cloves of Garlic, crushed (depends on preference...I like garlic)
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 TB of Sesame Oil
- Pepper (to taste)
- Bring large pot of water (4-5 quarts) to a boil on the stovetop. Add the vines and blanch for 1 minute, until the stems turn bright green. Strain, blot lightly to dry and set aside.
- When the vines have cooled, peel off the thin outer layer the vine. This will make the stems more tender (this step is optional)
- Heat skillet or wok until hot. Add oil and swirl pan to coat until oil is almost smoking. Add garlic, stirring continuously, for 1 minute. Add potato vines, stir fry for 2-3 minutes, or until stalks are just tender.Add the sesame oil and serve immediately.
Where to Find Sweet Potato Vine
Many Asian and International grocery stores carry fresh sweet potato vine. You can also find the vines dehydrated and stocked near the dried mushrooms in international groceries. If you live somewhere with a large Asian immigrant population, you can find sweet potato vines in farmers markets. In the Atlanta metro, head over to Buford Highway Farmers Market or H Market. Better yet, consider planting a sweet potato crop next spring!