Whoever thinks that sweet potatoes are only available in their original form, should take a look at the company Yamco in North Carolina. The company is property of the cultivation companies Farm PakHam Farms and Burch Equipment and after years of research, in collaboration with the North Carolina State University, has developed a purée of sweet potatoes that retains its colour, flavour and nutritional value. The fresh supply of sweet potatoes from the owners' cultivation companies is enabling a quick and efficient traceability to the field.

Grower Jimmy Burch on his field of sweet potatoes

No additives or preservatives are used during the process. The company uses a patented "microwave" technology for this. The purée is packaged aseptically, which means there are no freezing or cooling costs. Due to the process the shelf life is extended (to around two years) and the colour and nutritional value maintained. The product is also available organically. "The only ingredient is sweet potato," says director Bill Heafy enthusiastically. He won't say how many sweet potatoes are processed each year, but his smile betrays the huge volumes going through the factory. Besides sweet potato Yamco is also producing puréed spinach, pumpkin and carrot at the moment.

John Barnes of Farm Pak

The sweet potato purée is suitable for countless applications, in drinks (for colour, flavour and nutritional value), for baking (as dough and filling for cakes, muffins, doughnuts and rolls), as an energy bar (nutritious ingredient and natural sweetener), for the soup, juice and gravy industry (thickening properties, mouth sensation, flavour and nutrition), as baby food (excellent stand alone dish, or added to other fruit and vegetable purées), as a side (easy to apply to frozen or food service meals).

HAM Farms team

The sweet potato purée is also used as a functional food, as claims can be made of sweet potato purée with vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, fibre, beta-carotene and potassium. The purée is also sold to the ice cream industry, as a healthy snack, as a meat replacement, as animal fodder and speciality stores process the purée into fudge and other sweets. The aseptic packaging is available in 20, 200 and 1,135 litres. Bill Heafy himself sees the bakeries as the biggest potential for his product.

But even more than this is done with Yamco's sweet potato purée. A few years ago the Covington Gourmet Vodka was born. Grower Jimmy Burch originally sold the purée to the Boston Beer Company, who makes Samuel Adams beer, but decided to see whether he could distil the purée into vodka himself. It worked well, in its début year this vodka one a gold medal during the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Bill Heafy of Yamco shows the Covington Gourmet Vodka

Covington is the sweet potato variety currently dominating the cultivation in North Carolina. The vodka is available through
InternetWInes.com is believe to be sticking around on the market. The vodka is now available in all ABC stores and in a large number of states in the US.

For more information:
310 Kingold Blvd
Snow Hill, NC 28580