A Brief History of the Hawaiian Purple Sweet Potato

April 2, 2018

If you've shopped in grocery stores or farmers markets around Maui, or visited assorted restaurants around town, you've probably come across purple sweet potatoes, also called Okinawan sweet potatoes. The potatoes have a long history in Hawaii, but lets start at the beginning.

Sweet potatoes, the orange-type found on the mainland that are often served candied for Thanksgiving or made into sweet potato fries, were originally harvested in Columbia and Central America. Around the time Christopher Columbus was exploring new lands, these sweet potatoes were exported to Asia. On Okinawa, a small island about 400 miles off the southern coast of Japan, these potatoes were one of the few types of vegetables able to survive the typhoons and tropical storms that frequent the island. The purple coloring of the potato was cultivated here in Okinawa. Eventually, Polynesians brought the purple sweet potato to the rich, volcanic soils of Hawaii, where it continues to flourish today.

About that purple coloring? The color comes from anthocyanins. Anthocyanins can also be found in raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, eggplants, concord grapes and other fruits and vegetables. More testing needs to be done, but it is believed consuming anthocyanins reduces the risk of health disease in women, reduces cholesterol, fights obesity, boosts cognitive function by slowing age-related degeneration of brain function and memory, prevents cold and flu symptoms, and anthocyanins may be an effective way to prevent several different forms of cancer.** In other words, these purple potatoes not only taste great and look beautiful, they may eventually extend your life.

Because purple sweet potatoes tend to be a bit more dense and dry that standard potatoes, they do take a little longer to bake. But beyond that, go to town! Fry them up, bake them, mash them, prepare them how you would any other type of potato. The beautiful purple coloring will liven up a weekday meal.
* [From HealthyFocus.org](https://healthyfocus.org/health-benefits-of-anthocyanins/)

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