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"Grow Quality Sweet Potatoes",  April 1950, N.C. Agricultural Extension Service Circular No. 353.  From the collections of the North Carolina Museum of History.  Used courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

State Vegetable of North Carolina: Sweet Potato

by Amy Kemp and Kelly Agan, 2017.
NC Government & Heritage Library

See also: North Carolina State Symbols and Official Adoptions main page

The sweet potato was officially designated the State Vegetable by the General Assembly of 1995. (Session Laws, 1995, c. 521).

Selection as State Vegetable

Early discussions and bills for a State Vegetable occured in the 1980's and proposed collards and corn, however, none of these motions passed. In the 1990's, fourth grade students at Elvie Street School in Wilson, North Carolina petitioned the North Carolina General Assembly for the establishment of the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) as the Official State Vegetable after being inspired by a visit from their local congressman, Representative Gene Arnold. With the support of their parents and community they began a letter writing campaign to the state legislature requesting the adoption. In the summer of 1995, after two years of work, the bill was passed. 

About the Sweet Potato

The sweet potato was grown in North Carolina by the Native Americans long before the European colonization of North America. Some scientist believe that sweet potatoes might have even been a food source for the dinosaurs.

North Carolina is the number one state in sweet potato production, growing nearly half of the country’s sweet potatoes. Wilson and Johnston counties are the top producers, but there are more than 60,000 acres spread throughout the state. The majority of production is located in the coastal plain because of its sandy soil and temperate climate.  

Surprisingly, the sweet potato is not at all related to the potato. The sweet potato belongs to the root family, while the potato is a tuber. Sweet potatoes are frequently confused with yams, though these are also two distinctly different vegetables. While sweet potatoes are indigenous to North America, the yam comes from West Africa and Asia. The African word for this vegetable is nyami, and according to legend, the early enslaved Africans in America mistook the sweet potato for their homeland’s vegetable, dubbing it the ‘yam.’ Today, most ‘yams’ marketed in the United States are actually sweet potatoes.

There are hundreds of different varieties of sweet potato. They are usually orange, but can also be white, purple, or even deep red. All have an oblong body with tapered ends. The Covington, a very common type of Sweet potato, originated in North Carolina. It has rose colored skin, sweet orange flesh, and is popular for mashing and roasting. Other varieties from North Carolina include the Jewel, the Carolina Ruby, and the Porto Rico 198.

Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A and C and low in fat. They have a low glycemic index, which makes them a good source of nutrients for diabetics. They are also very high in potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

References and additional resources:

"Sweet potatoes." 2010. NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Online at http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/commodit/horticul/sweetpot/

North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. Online at https://ncsweetpotatoes.com

NASS QuickStats search page (Statistics from the USDA/National Agricultural Statistics Service)

Funk, Tim. "Collards Bill On Burner - Yams Still Cold Potato," Charlotte Observer, The (NC), May 28, 1987: 1A.

Sweet Potato

Image credits:

N.C. Agricultural Extension Service. "Grow Quality Sweet Potatoes."  April 1950, N.C. Agricultural Extension Service Circular No. 353.  H.1993.427.190North Carolina Museum of History.  (accessed December 12, 2014).

"Sweet Potato." National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, 2005.

Authors: 

Comments

Comment: 

I love sweet potato but why are they the state simpol.

Comment: 

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Comment: 

meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Comment: 

I do get sweet potatos mix up with yams

Comment: 

Sweet potatoes and yams are the same thing

Comment: 

hi

Comment: 

how do i draw this?

Comment: 

why was the sweet potato chosen as the state vegetable

Comment: 

Hi Jack, 

That's a great question! State symbols are adopted by the General Assembly and the Assembly passes legislation that adopts a particular thing as a state symbol. Often the language of the passed legislation tells something about why the particular thing was chosen.  In this case, the bill doesn't tell us much -- you can read it here: https://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/SessionLaws/HTML/1995-1996/SL19....

If you look back at this article, you'll see the places where it talks about how important the sweet potato has been to North Carolina, both for the livelihood of farmers and as a food staple for the areas historical tribes and settlers. That should give you an idea of why it was selected.

I hope this helps!

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

 

Comment: 

I hate sweet potatoes

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