Long a staple of thanksgiving dinners and farm life in America, the sweet potato has made its way across the Atlantic. Recently, demand in Europe has skyrocketed over the past decade, as Europeans increasingly demand the healthy vegetable.
Exports to the United Kingdom have surged in the past five years: in 2005, they totaled only $5.7 million while four years later they were more than $20.4 million. The U.S. Department of Agriculture asserts that through the first six months of this year, exports are set to handily exceed those of last year, as countries like Ireland, famous for its own white potato, have a developing market for the cholesterol-free, vitamin-packed treat. Imports there totaled $125,000 in 2009 – up from none five years ago.
Jerome Vick, owner of Vick Family Farms in North Carolina, says that the sweet potato's growing appeal in Europe is unsurprising. "It’s a great tasting vegetable," he declared. While he concedes that Europeans are "a little more stringent in terms of food safety," David Picha, a professor at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, affirms that American farmers are investing in new farming equipment, like John Deere tractors, to ensure that they can provide a uniform shape and a "consistently high quality of sweet potatoes on a year-round basis."
Long a delicacy in the U.S., the sweet potato looks to conquer Europe next.