Seasonal Flavors: Sautéed Sweet Potato Greens

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Fresh sweet potato leaves. Photo: Denise Zito.

My friend Nicole runs a magical preschool in our Crozet. The play spaces both indoor and out are beautiful. But her gardens, ahhh, her gardens are just enchanting. With archways and paths, and flowers planted among the vegetables, Nicole’s gardens are both educational space and quiet retreat.

This past spring I was picking up my granddaughter Sabina and said to her, “hop into the car, we’re going to Crozet Hardware to pick up our sweet potato plants!” Nicole overheard and said, “Have you ever eaten the sweet potato plant leaves?”

Well, no, I hadn’t. She explained that they are delicious sautéed and that she sometimes clips so many of the greens that she cripples the plant and gets few potatoes. 

I spoke with her last week to learn more, because with the best gardening season ever, I’ve got a lush patch of sweet potatoes and I’m anxious to try the greens.

Nicole told me that she got the recipe from her friend Eliza Evans. I’m acquainted with Eliza’s parents, and she worked with one of my sons years ago. My daughter knows Eliza, too, so it didn’t surprise me that it would be she who supplied this novel recipe.

We are graced with so many creative people here in central Virginia.

So here is Nicole’s/Eliza’s recipe for sweet potato greens. This isn’t an earth-shattering recipe of course, but it is just a reminder of the abundance all around us. How fantastic to have fresh greens while we await our fall spinach.

Final note: on the very day that I spoke with Nicole about all this, I turned and looked out my kitchen window and saw an enormous groundhog munching away on my well-fenced, always secure from critters, sweet potato patch! So it turns out that Nicole and Eliza are not the only ones who knew that sweet potato plants are tasty. Grrrrrr.

Sautéed Sweet Potato Greens

  • Large basket full of sweet potato leaves, stems removed
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 T tamari
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Clean the leaves and drain, or dry with paper towels. Heat the oil; toast the garlic in the oil.  

Toss in the sweet potato leaves and stir constantly for a few minutes until glistening and just wilted. 

Don’t overcook the greens, or they lose their appeal.  Add the tamari and the pepper (if desired). Serve immediately.  

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