The newest pretty lady to come out of the South is banking on her good looks, smooth skin and symmetry of form to win her some suitors.

Meet evangeline, a sweet potato variety that more and more Southern sweet potato shippers are touting for its ability to size consistently, a trait desired by both the retail and foodservice trades.

While nearly every shipper offers the standby beauregard variety, the evangeline has its benefits.
“It’s sweeter than a beauragard. It eats real well and sizes up about the same,” said Roy Hansen, sales manager at Dawson Farms LLC, Delhi, La. “Once a customer gets a taste for that sweet potato, they’ll be back for more.”

Hansen said the color and texture is about the same as the beauregard, but the evangeline tends to yield a few more No. 1s.

Dawson Farms is putting about 15% of its 3,300 acres in the variety.

“I imagine in the future we’ll increase that acreage,” Hansen said.

Garber Farms Inc., Iota, La., also is putting its foot forward for the evangeline.

“A part of our crop will be in evangelines, maybe 20% or so,” said Wayne Garber, partner.

Less than 2,000 acres in Louisiana, perhaps 10% of the state’s acreage, is devoted to the evangeline variety, said Tara Smith, Louisiana State University’s AgCenter sweet potato specialist/research coordinator.

The variety, which was released in 2007, held up better under the saturated soil situation last year, unlike the beauregard, Smith said. It is more pallatable as a green sweet potato because it has a higher concentration of sucrose, she said.

“We don’t see it as a replacement for the beauregard, at least not yet,” she said. “But it is seen as an alternative, to give growers the opportunity to cater to different markets.”

“At some point we’d like to see consumers have a choice on retail shelves, just like they do with apples, and be able to pay a higher price for one variety,” Smith said.

Garber Farms also grows the o’henry sweet potatoes, and the murasaki, an Oriental variety, Garber said.

Normally the company can grow enough for an eight to nine-month supply of the o’henries which is a white-flesh sweet potato.

As for volumes of the murasaki, which has a purplish outer hue and white flesh, the length of the market window will depend on demand. “We hope to have enough to satisfy the specialty needs of our customer base at least through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons,” Garber said.

“It has a different, deeper-bodied flavor to it. It may be favored by the Oriental purchaser, but others like it as well. We’ve baked them here in the office, and some people really prefer them.”

Smith said that a number of new Louisiana varieties will be further tested in this year’s breeding program. The varieties are numbered lines that are not named yet, she said, calling some of them “very attractive, high yielding cultivars.”

If trials are successful, some of them may be released to growers later this year, she said.

In Georgia, L&M Cos. Inc. is growing the covington variety, which is a blockier, more consistent-sizing variety, said Jeff Axelberg, salesman for potatoes and onions for the Raleigh, N.C.-based firm.

Axelburg characterized the covington as good for both retail and foodservice because of the consistent sizing, which allows for better retail shelf displays and more even cost considerations for foodservice operators.