Sweet potatoes come from a plant that originated in Central and South America. Archaeologists believe sweet potatoes first appeared anywhere from 2500 to 1850 B.C.E.
The first known cultivation of sweet potatoes took place around 750 B.C.E. in Peru. When Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, he took sweet potatoes back with him to Europe, where the Europeans began planting them. As time went on, the Americans began referring to these potatoes as "sweet potatoes" to help differentiate between these vegetables and white potatoes, known at the time as Irish potatoes. The term caught on around the world.
In the late 1500s, people were enjoying sweet potatoes roasted and boiled. The Europeans used them as a main dish and incorporated them into dishes like sweet potato pie. By the 1800s, the American colonists were enjoying candied sweet potatoes and this is evident by many cookbooks that have been found from this time.
Sweet potatoes are tropical vegetables that grow best in hot weather. They prefer well-drained soil in a place where winter temperatures don't get too cold. Sweet potatoes grow on vines and the vegetable can be harvested when the vines begin to turn yellow. Once harvested, it is best to brush the dirt off them and leave them to sit in a dark cool place to gain extra sweetness.