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Archive for November, 2016

Sweet Potatoes and Yams Are Two Different Vegetables

Thanksgiving is only 2 days away and sweet potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables on the menu. Sweet potatoes are commonly seen labeled as yams, when in reality they are most likely sweet potatoes. Many years ago the U.S. government decided to label sweet potatoes by their color to make things easier. The creamy white flesh ones are labeled sweet potatoes and the orange fleshed ones are sometimes labeled yams.  The USDA requires that sweet potatoes labeled as yams also be labeled as sweet potatoes. Chances are likely that you are buying sweet potatoes regardless of what the label says. Are you still confused?

In reality sweet potatoes and yams are two totally different vegetables.  Yams are tubers and are usually found imported in ethnic markets in the United States. They are originally from Africa, where over 95% of the world’s crop is harvested, and Asia.  Yams are grown in tropical climates and are very popular in Latin America and the Caribbean.  A few varieties can grow up to 7 feet in length and weigh almost 200 pounds! The skin of a yam is rough and scaly and the taste is very starchy.  Yams are toxic when raw and must be cooked to get rid of the toxins. They are an extremely important part in the diet of the people in Nigeria and West Africa.  Yams supply more than 200 calories per person per day for more than 150 million people in West Africa while also providing a necessary income for local farmers.  Yams are high in vitamin C and B and potassium and low in saturated fat and sodium.  The flavor can sometimes be sweeter than a sweet potato depending on the variety.

Sweet Potatoes are thought to originate in either Central or South America at least 5,000 years ago.  In the U.S. they are grown in temperate climate zones.  North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes followed by California, Louisiana and Mississippi.  In California 80% of the sweet potatoes are grown in Merced County followed by Fresno and Stanislaus County. When you sit down for the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner you will be eating sweet potatoes regardless of their color.

There are 5 main types of sweet potatoes grown. The orange flesh varieties become moist when cooked and the white flesh varieties become dry when cooked with a crumbly texture similar to a baked white potato. The Garnet is the classic sweet potato that most people think of when making mashed sweet potatoes, pies, cakes and breads.

  1. Red Skin/Orange Flesh (Varieties include Dianas, Reds & Garnets)
  2. Orange Skin/Orange Flesh (Varieties include the Beauregard, Covington & Jewel)
  3. White Skin/White Cream Flesh (Varieties include the O’Henry, Jersey Sweet, Hannahs or Hannah Golds)
  4. Red Skin/White Flesh (Japanese Sweet varieties include Murasaki & Kotobuki-most commonly referred to as “Orientals”. Also referred to as Satsumaimo in Japan)
  5. Red skin/Purple Flesh (Purple Stokes)
A variety of sweet potatoes from Earl's

A few examples of sweet potatoes from Earl’s

 Storing Sweet Potatoes

  • Store sweet potatoes in a cool dark place.
  • Don’t store them in the refrigerator! Refrigeration will make the center of the sweet potato hard and it will cook unevenly.

Sweet potatoes are relatively low in calories and have no fat. They are rich in beta-carotene , having five times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A in one sweet potato, as well as loaded with potassium. These nutrients help to protect against heart attack and stroke. Purple sweet potatoes are particularly rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, also found in blueberries and pomegranates. This compound is best known for boosting immunity and thought to help fight cancer.

My favorite Japanese sweet potato recipe is Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes with Miso Scallion Butter. You will fall in love with Japanese Sweet potatoes if you haven’t already. One of Earl’s Organic customers’ raves about making hash browns with the Purple Stokes sweet potato.  Share your favorite sweet potato recipe on our Facebook page.

Earl’s Organic Produce wishes all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving! Eat well and enjoy the holiday.

Cranberries Herald In The Holidays

Visions of beautiful red cranberries fill my head as we draw closer to the holidays. Cranberries were introduced to the English settlers in Massachusetts in the early 1800’s and the first farmed cranberries were grown in Cape Cod.  Over half of the United States crop is grown in Wisconsin. Massachusetts is the second largest producer followed by New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.  Canada is also a big player with over 20% of the world’s cranberries grown in the province of British Columbia.  Cranberries are also grown in New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec. Eastern Canada’s cooler weather is especially ideal for growing organic cranberries and more than 80% of the organic cranberries are grown in Quebec. The cold weather helps to prevent fungus from forming. The cold weather, just like with citrus, also helps to bring out the full flavor and deep color of the fruit.


Cranberries are grown on vines planted in bogs with a mixture of moist acid peat soil and sand which allows them to thrive in harsh weather conditions. Cranberries turn from green to white to a deep red, telling the grower they are ready to be harvested. The harvest season lasts from about mid-September to mid-November. Cranberries sold for the fresh market are dry harvested and make up less than 5% of the entire cranberry harvest.  Mechanical pickers are pushed through the bog like a lawnmower, combing the vines and depositing the cranberries into burlap bags.


Cranberry bog: First dry harvested for fresh cranberries and then filled with water to harvest cranberries for processing.

The cranberries are taken to a facility to be washed and then sorted through a machine to pick out any soft berries.  Good berries will bounce because of their air pockets. The soft berries will not bounce and therefore will not make the cut to be packaged for fresh berries. Some growers use an optical sorter to pick out only the red berries. Lastly the berries move on a conveyor belt where workers pick out any light colored berries that might have slipped through.

The remaining 95% of cranberries are wet harvested and used to make juices, concentrates, sauces, dried fruit and as ingredients in processed foods. The bogs are flooded with water from a reservoir area which can take a few hours up to a few days depending on the size of the bog.  Water reels move through the bog and the wheels knock the berries off the vines. The berries will then float to the surface because of the tiny air pockets inside them.  The cranberries are then corralled by a person wading through the bog pulling large vinyl booms around the berries. From there the cranberries are then vacuumed out of the bog onto a tractor trailer bed.


Cranberries are incredibly good for you and are not just for enjoying during the holiday season. Eaten fresh, frozen or dried, cranberries are high in vitamin C, fiber and vitamin E and packed with antioxidants. Cranberries are said to help prevent urinary tract infections, improve immune function, decrease blood pressure and help fight cancer. One half of cup of cranberries has only 25 calories!

Recipe Ideas:

*Toss a handful of fresh cranberries with pears or apples for a delicious sweet/tart salad
*Muddle fresh cranberries with your favorite vinegar and blend with olive for a tangy salad dressing
*Thanksgiving is the perfect time to make Satsuma cranberry sauce with Satsuma Mandarin juice and chopped up peel from Side Hill Citrus Satsumas from Lincoln, CA
* Dip fresh cranberries in milk chocolate and freeze them for 5 minutes

Earl’s is offering three different pack sizes of organic cranberries this holiday season. Patience cranberries from Quebec are available in 22# bulk cases and 18oz clamshells and the GreenBelle Biodynamic cranberries from Wisconsin are available in 8oz cello bags.  Biodynamic agriculture treats the farm, including soil, plants and animals, as a single interrelated and self-sustaining ecosystem. Contact your Earl’s sales representative for more information.

Side Hill Citrus in Lincoln, CA, located in the Sacramento foothills, has the best Satsuma Mandarins in our opinion. Satsumas peel effortlessly, making it the perfect on the go snack for both kids and adults.  As the weather continues to get colder Satsumas are the ultimate cold buster. Eat four or five Satsumas a day to receive six to seven times as much synephrine, a natural decongestant, as other citrus. Plan to stock up in November and December because the season usually ends the beginning of January.

Satsuma tree cropped


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