Teaching Kids About Sweet Potatoes: Dr. Starbuck Explains

Feb 1, 2018

Hi!  I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck, a naturopathic family physician.  I’m here today with health tips for kids about: sweet potatoes.

The inspiration for this story comes from an organic sweet potato named Steady. When this sweet potato came home from the store, it was just a sweet potato.  It lay on our kitchen counter top for the longest time.  Most days I would look at it and think ‘I should bake that sweet potato tonight’.  But somehow, the time never came.  Finally I named the sweet potato Steady because it just lay there day after day and never changed. Until one day it did. Steady started to sprout.

Yep.  First, a tiny green bud.  Then another bud.  Then the buds grew green stems which eventually grew tiny reddish green leaves.  The stems grew longer, the leaves matured, and after a couple months, Steady had six long stems and lots of pretty leaves.  Steady moved off our kitchen counter, into a big pot of dirt and became a beautiful and much loved house plant.

This story is a health tip because it reminds all of us that real food has real life inside it.  Kids and adults need to eat living food so they can have a healthy life.  Sweet potatoes have beta carotene, a nutrient that helps our liver and our skin and our eyes.  Sweet potatoes also have vitamin C and B vitamins and potassium.  We need all of these to keep our heart working, to prevent illness and to have lots of energy for school and work and play.

Not all vegetables will sprout if you leave them on the counter.  In fact, lots don’t.  But sweet potatoes are tubers.  That means even though they are brown and hard and dry, they are actually stems. Stems grow and make more stems and those stems make leaves.  A lot like a tree, with a trunk and branches and leaves.

Potatoes are also tubers.  They too have vitamin C and B vitamins and potassium.  You may have noticed that if potatoes sit around for a while, the little yellow dots we call ‘eyes’ eventually turn green and start to grow stems and leaves. Just like my sweet potato did.

You can see the life inside of other vegetables by observing onions and garlic.  Right now on our counter, we have a bowl of onions that I grew last summer in my garden.  Almost every one of them has a long green stem growing out from the top of the onion.  The onions are alive even though they’ve been sitting in a bowl for three months.  

Onions and garlic grow green stems as they get older.  The green parts have vegetable protein.  You can chop up the sprouts and add them to soups or stews.  You can eat the onion and the garlic parts but they often get pretty mushy when they start to sprout.

Sprouts, the kind you put in salad, are another living food. Sprouts are seeds that have grown little stems and tiny little leaves.  Lots of salads have sprouts grown from alfalfa and radish and even broccoli seeds.  Sprouts also grow from garbanzo beans and lentils.  If you want to grow living food yourself, soak seeds or beans overnight in a jar in a few inches of water.  Then pour the water out and put the jar on a window shelf.  Rinse them twice a day and shake out the water.  In just a few days, tiny white stems will start to pop out.  When the tiny stems grow little green leaves, your food is ready to eat.

I hope Steady the sweet potato inspires you to eat lots of living foods.  You’ll be healthier, and probably happier, if you do!

I’m Doctor Jamison Starbuck, and I’m wishing you well.