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Where to find it: Native Foods



The American ancestry of the sweet potatoes has never been called into question, although there is much confusion about the name: Is it yam or sweet potato (or its actual one-word name, sweetpotato)?

In fact, yams are from Africa and sweet potatoes are from here. Spanish explorers found that Native Americans grew sweet potatoes in Louisiana in 1542, and one of the first English botanists to come to North Carolina in the 1500s cited the okeepenauk, a wild potato grown from a vine, as "bignes of a mans head."

While sweet potatoes are part of the annual Thanksgiving dinner now, the original wild tuber was an ingredient of the Native American dishes in North Carolina. Nowadays, of course, sweet potatoes are cultivated and North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the U.S. Among the varieties grown in North Carolina are the rose-skinned Covington, the dominant variety; Beauregard; Hernandez; and the O'Henry with its cream flesh. Two varieties of sweet potatoes grown in the state have white flesh: Murasaki and Japanese.

The closest place to Charlotte to have a Native American meal is at the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project. They offer a meal — seasonally venison, a traditional food (at other times an "Indian taco" of uncertain origin is served), with a two-hour program which includes drumming, dancing, language instruction and pottery. The cost is $35 per person with a 15-person minimum and a two-week reservation requirements. Contact K.C. George-Warren, 803-328-2427, extension 238, at the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project, 1536 Tom Stephen Road, Rock Hill, S.C.

Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the Q.C.? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: or 704-522-8334, extension 136.

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