Let’s Talk Food: Sweet Potato Research at the University of Hawaii at Manoa


Sweet potatoes are one of the most important agricultural crops in Hawaii today, as they were in ancient Hawaii. The earliest archaeological evidence of sweet potato dates back to the 14th century AD in the Kohala Field System.

During the peak growing season, sweet potatoes generated $ 7.3 million. Molokai, with its drier climate, produces a sweet potato industry as well as the high rainfall areas of the Big Island, but breeding lines need to be selected.

Elizabeth Winnicki, Aurora Kagawa-Viviani, Kauahi Perez, Theodore Radovich and Michael Kantar of the University of Hawaii at Manoa conducted studies and discovered two new varieties of Hawaiian sweet potatoes that outperformed the currently purple Okinawan sweet potato. a very important agricultural culture, in particular on the big island.

“Our results call attention to the value of a set of Hawaiian sweet potatoes as a ‘heirloom.’ These genetically distinct traditional cultivars have unique value in local markets and provide an opportunity to increase cultivar diversity. in markets and fields, farmer incomes and diverse agriculture, while contributing to the revitalization of Hawaiian cultural heritage.

The researchers noticed that the mohihi variety produced 50 plants. So decided to conduct a research study to produce more and create economic value for farmers.

Starting in 2018 and working on this project for a year, these researchers selected 12 of the 50 varieties and planted them in different climates: autumn in Waimanalo in 2018 and spring in Poamoho and Waimanalo in 2019.

After harvest, they collected the information needed to check the yield, parameters, root shape, susceptibility to damage, color and sucrose content. One variety outperformed and another matched the favorable qualities of Okinawan sweet potatoes.

“A high sucrose content in sweet potatoes is associated with improved taste and increases their market value. “

However, the sweet potato weevil (Cylas formicaria), a common sweetpotato pest in Hawaii, was a problem, especially in areas with “high rainfall, heavy clay soils, and a recent history of sweetpotato cultivation.”

There is a preferred shape for the market as well as the color. The purple flesh of the Okinawan sweet potato was desired, so HM 34 and HM 26 came out as the best. “From this study, we identified commercially viable lines from the ‘Hawaiian Heritage’ breeding material. Lines HM 34 and HM 26 have the greatest potential for production in the fresh market, while HM 26 and HM 34, respectively, are excellent candidates for production in the fresh market in Hawaii.

While research on the sweet potato is not complete, researchers are now using the data they have already collected to support local organic farmers, collaborate with the community, and restore ownership of the Hawaiian sweet potato to the Hawaiian people.

Gourmet bites

The beautiful color of purple Okinawan sweet potatoes has many cooking applications and is similar to the popular ube, which is a purple yam, and the Okinawa variety has a light colored skin and the ube has a peel. darker.

Haupia and Okinawan sweet potato go well in a dessert, whether it’s a cheese cake or a bar. This purple sweet potato cheesecake recipe was printed by KTA Super Stores but courtesy of the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, who could possibly be credited with making this dessert very popular.

Purple Sweet Potato Cheesecake

A 9 inch cheesecake

Prepare the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together

3/4 cup macadamia nuts (finely chopped)

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 stick of melted butter

Pat the crust into a 9-inch springform pan. Bake 10 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees. Remove the pan from the oven, but leave the oven on.

Place in the bowl of the mixer and beat until blended, pour the batter over the crust in the springform pan:

1-1 / 2 cups purple Okinawan sweet potatoes (about 2 potatoes, steamed and mashed)

1 pound of cream cheese

3 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Combine in a saucepan, cover over low heat, stirring constantly, until the haupia thickens and there are no more bubbles:

2 cups of coconut milk

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups of water

1/2 cup cornstarch

Spread the hot haupia evenly on top of the cheesecake.

• • •

The Hawaii Community College Culinary Program Cafeteria and Da Ohana Corner Cafe are open 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. For take out orders, call 808-934-2559 for the cafeteria and 808-934-2591 for the Da Ohana Corner Cafe during business hours. Please provide your name, phone number and pick-up time.

Watch the one-way signs in the cafeteria and cafe. Face masks are compulsory.

Da Ohana Corner Cafe offers breakfast selections, salads, burgers, bentos and musubi, while the cafeteria offers hot lunch options including rice, vegetables, fresh bread roll and soup.

Email Audrey Wilson at audrey [email protected]


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