HOW SWEET IT IS.

Author:Williams, Allison
Position::FIRST TAKE
 
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When Americans dig into their sweet potato casserole this Thanksgiving, there's a good chance that a North Carolina farm supplied the orange mash underneath that marshmallow topping--more than half of the country's sweet potatoes are grown here. North Carolina farmers are tops in taters and No. 2 for producing turkeys, which means they have a starring role on Turkey Day. But the root vegetable is undergoing a renaissance, and not just at holiday time: In 2015, U.S. farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II.

CHINA DOMINATES

Although North Carolina dominates U.S. sweet potato production, China is the clear global leader. Much of China's crop goes to animal feed, not human consumption.

source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

SWEET POTATO ... ICE CREAM?

Sweet potato fries are ubiquitous on restaurant menus these days, but chefs are finding unexpected uses for the humble tuber, from Thai curries to cinnamon buns. Southerners have been eating sweet potatoes for generations but might be surprised to be served sweet potatoes for breakfast. Where avocado toast once reigned, sweet potato toast rules today's trendy American plates--Germans are already embracing the breakfast "superfood." The adventurous are even attempting sweet potato ice cream. It's a seasonal flavor at Maple View Farm's ice cream shop in Hillsborough.

GOING TO THE DOGS

It's not just humans who appreciate an N.C. sweet potato--pets are following their owners' tastes. Sweet potatoes, "ancient" grains, blueberries, pumpkin and spinach are rising to the top of a nearly $30 billion market that meat-loving brands once eschewed. Pet-food, baby-food and snack manufacturers, breweries, and distilleries seek out Yamco's 450-pound drums and...

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