What's in Season

Sweet Potato Greens

Move over, kale—sweet potato greens are the leafage du jour

Illustration: Illustrations by John Burgoyne

Last fall, Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan, co–executive chefs at Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s One restaurant, got a whiff of something unexpected at the local farmers’ market. Their noses led them to an older woman braising sweet potato greens in coconut milk, using a recipe from her mother and grandmother. One bite and the chefs were sold. “It’s not only a beautiful green, but also wonderfully sweet,” Floresca says. “Kale has been the fad, but sweet potato greens are on the rise.” Sweet potatoes have been a staple of Southern cuisine since at least the seventeenth century—North Carolina produces more of the tubers than any other state—so it’s a wonder the greens are just now resurfacing on market and dining tables. More tender than collards and less astringent than spinach or chard, they work well in stir-fries, stews, omelets, and pasta. But they can also stand alone, sautéed in a bit of fat or plated raw in a fall salad. At the market, ask anyone selling sweet potatoes if they have greens available. If not, they’ll most likely bring you a bunch the following week. The leaves don’t last long—maybe three or four days—so use them right away or store briefly, wrapped in a dry paper towel, in the fridge. The chefs use sweet potato greens in several dishes at One (see their recipes at right) and often share the tale of their surprising farmers’ market find. “What I love about the South is that there are stories that go along with food,” Floresca says, “which create long meals with family and friends.”