Here’s the ugly truth about staying in St. Thomas over the winter: for some reason they don’t import many of the wonderful fruits and vegetables available on the other, more fertile Caribbean islands. Instead, the grocery stores are full of carrots from Canada and apples from .. wherever one gets apples in March. There are a couple of stores who have better local produce, but you have to work for it.
When it comes to the sweet potato, we are definitely in the Caribbean. In Grenada, when in doubt, I learned to ask the market vendor, “Are those your sweet potatoes or my sweet potatoes?” We cruisers were the only tourists in Grenada during hurricane season, so the market vendors have gotten used to our strange ways, and simply smile and reply, “Yes, these are your sweet potatoes. Ours are over here.” In Maine, sweet potatoes have orange skins and orange flesh. In the Caribbean, sweet potatoes have kind of orange skin and white flesh and a lot more natural sugar. They also have a shorter shelf life, at least on a boat.
This was particularly distressing since EW twice brought home Caribbean sweet potatoes when I asked for North American sweet potatoes or yams. He swears on his guitar that the ladies in Red Hook assured him that the sweet potatoes were orange under their skin. I knew as soon as I opened the bag that he’d been had.
At the left are USA Yams – what my mom and dad always called sweet potatoes.
At right, Caribbean sweet potatoes. The skin may have some orange in it, but the flesh does not.
We recently shopped at a different grocery store – one we hadn’t discovered until now. They have a pretty good produce section with items imported from other islands, and South and North America. That store has the Caribbean sweet potatoes, labeled as Sweet Potatoes and sitting in a bin amongst ginger, dasheen, and other local staples. At the other end of the produce section, I found a bin appropriately labeled, “USA Yams”. Now that’s clear.
So of course, we should try the local sweet potato. I’ve been told that some prefer to steam it and others bake it. This seems to be a family thing, an either/or, sort of like making biscuits in Maine with either Bakewell Cream or baking powder. One does not do both. Well, I’ll probably try it both ways. Wonder if I can get EW to actually purchase Caribbean sweet potatoes on purpose?