For everyone who’s interested in cooking authentic Jamaican food I think it’s important to know this ingredient. Mainly because the sweet potato most widely available in North America and Europe is not the kind used in Jamaican recipes. The sweet potatoes grown in Jamaica are not orange, but red-skinned and white or yellowish inside. Their texture is more starchy and dry than orange sweet potatoes (also called yams in the US), which makes them a great addition to Jamaican soups, and more.
In Jamaica, sweet potatoes are eaten boiled, roasted, or as the star ingredient in a Sweet Potato Pudding. And, to make an authentic Jamaican Sweet Potato Pudding or pone you have to use tropical sweet potatoes. Stay tuned, I’ll be adding my recipe to the site soon.
If you live somewhere with significant South American or Asian communities you’ll likely be able to find red-skinned sweet potatoes, sometimes labelled “Batata” (the genus name for them), in your local supermarket. However, the batata and Jamaican sweet potato are not exactly the same so you may not get the same results when cooking recipes like Sweet Potato Pudding.
For more information about the sweet potatoes grown and eaten in Jamaica, check out this story from a local Jamaican newspaper. I think it does a good job of explaining their origin and nutritional value better than I ever could: Sweet Sweet Potato Defined