Sweet potatoes are suddenly giving their white-skinned cousins a run for their money. While we certainly can’t pinpoint exactly why, the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that sweet potato consumption increased nearly 80 percent between 2000 and 2014 and sweet potatoes continue to gain popularity here and abroad.
Growing consumer demand for sweet potatoes may be due to mounting evidence that they are one of the world’s healthiest foods. Sweet potatoes are higher in beta carotene than many other vegetables and are a tremendous source of potassium, fiber, and vitamins A, C and E.
>> Read: 5 Huge Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
In October 2015, McDonald’s began trial testing sweet potato fries in Amarillo, Texas. And the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission recently released two surveys that suggest the super food is finding its way onto restaurant menus more frequently. The findings, published in The Packer, showed:
- About two-thirds of consumers eat sweet potatoes in restaurants — baked, fried, whipped and in gourmet recipes.
- About 15 percent of a la carte sweet potato sides are upgrade menu options, netting an average of $1.50 more per order.
- 75 percent of diners believe sweet potatoes are healthy and nutritious. >> Read the full story
Demand for U.S. sweet potatoes is rising in Europe, as well. Exports on all forms of sweet potatoes to Europe reached $92 million in 2015, up 35 percent compared with 2014, according to a news release from the American Sweet Potato Marketing Institute.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the United Kingdom was the second largest export market for U.S. sweet potatoes in 2015, after Canada. Exports of U.S. fresh and dried sweet potatoes to the UK from January through November 2015 totaled nearly $53 million, up 45 percent compared to the same period in 2014.
Richter and Company Produce welcomes Chappell Farms to its farm family. Peaches have been part of the Chappell name for five generations, dating back to 1927. The year that James Chappell planted his first peaches in Candor, North Carolina, Calvin Coolidge was president; Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in a single-engine plane; Ford debuted the Model A; and the Yankees swept the Pirates in the World Series.
Great-grandson Pat Chappell continues the family business from his home base in Kline, South Carolina, where he moved in 1952 and planted his first 100-acre orchard. The farm has since grown to 1,000 acres and sells mostly early-variety peaches — the first to be plucked from the tree, usually in early May but sometimes in late April if the stars align.
Chappell’s is the southernmost peach farm along South Carolina’s Coastal Plains, where winters are mild, summers are warm and ample rainfall keeps crops well-hydrated — perfect conditions to grow early fruit bursting with flavor. Dedication to quality and craft have established “Pat’s Pride” as one of the South’s best early brands.
Richter Produce now markets three South Carolina peach farms: Chappells in Barnwell County, Cotton Hope in Aiken County and McLeod Farms in Chesterfield County. South Carolina is traditionally the nation’s second-largest producer of peaches, trailing only California and ironically ranked just ahead of Georgia, the Peach State. The fresh fruit and vegetable industry provides an annual economic boost to state revenues of more than $150 million.
A mention on NBC’s “TODAY” show was brief but beautiful for South Carolina and the town of McBee, home of McLeod Farms and Mac’s Pride peaches. After a story about summer produce, particularly the bounties of August, when heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, green beans and peaches grow aplenty, news personality Craig Melvin — himself a South Carolina homegrown — gave a quick shout out to McLeod Farms.
Melvin is from Columbia, the Palmetto State capital, where he began his TV career as an anchor and reporter for NBC affiliate WIS. He’s now a correspondent for NBC News and an anchor for MSNBC. On weekends, he anchors MSNBC Live and fills in for “Weekend TODAY.”
Melvin’s brief but beautiful line? “Give me a South Carolina peach; I don’t know if you’ve had a peach from McBee, S.C.” View Video
August is National Peach Month, which always revives a friendly rivalry between South Carolina and Georgia over which state produces the sweetest peach. We won’t try to settle the dispute here, but we can tell you this:
For more than 100 years, since Georgia first began shipping peaches beyond its borders, that state has claimed the fruit as its own. For years it’s been known as the Peach State. But South Carolina has for years grown and shipped more peaches, making it the second-largest peach producer in the nation, just behind California.
Exactly which state grows the juiciest and the sweetest peaches on the market is another matter entirely. One thing is certain: Peaches from both states are just plain good.