The sweet potato is not actually related to the ordinary potato. Although it is similar in general appearance to the ordinary potato, the sweet potato is usually more elongated in shape, with a skin colour that ranges from off-white to deep warm red. The flesh can be anything from light beige to bright orange, and firm or soft. The taste, although starchy, is much sweeter than ordinary potato.
Sweet potatoes should be firm and have a good colour; avoid any with soft patches or blemishes. They can be stored for about a week or so in a cool dry place. Sweet potato can be used in the same ways as ordinary potato, that is, boiled, mashed, baked, roasted or deep-fried as chips. Its natural sweetness makes it particularly versatile, as it can also be pureed and sweetened to use as a dessert pie filling.
Even when served as a vegetable, it is often flavoured with spices like nutmeg or cinnamon and 'candied' with brown sugar and butter. In the West Indies, where sweet potato is part of the staple diet, it is added to bean and other casseroles, but also made into a pudding with desiccated coconut, coconut milk, nutmeg and lime.