A local farmer named Şerafettin Baba is harvesting his first crop of colorful sweet potatoes in the Torbalı district of western Izmir province as a local venture he hopes will turn into a lucrative business.
A pricey imported treat, Turkish farmers like Baba across the country are now growing their own crops of sweet potatoes that they hope will help make the healthy vegetable – which is often sold for TL 40 ($4) per kilogram – more affordable for local shoppers.
The 29-year-old farmer says he has been pleasantly surprised by the yield of his crop planted in his 15-decare field, so far trying his luck with two types, red and purple.
After seeing the expensive price tags of the imported orange variety on market shelves, Baba set out to research how to grow the crop with the goal of eventually creating a value-added product for both the retail and wholesale sectors.
"I think I might be the first in our area to produce sweet potatoes. First, I planted them in a small area as a trial and got a nice yield. I am thinking of selling this product, which is normally imported, for TL 15 per kilogram. There are very few sweet potato producers in Turkey, and those that do are in Antalya and Hatay. I produce in Izmir," Baba told Ihlas News Agency (IHA).
After ensuring that the crop received plenty of sun, water and fertile soil, his venture proved fruitful, and he was impressed with the quick growing season. "This area is 15 acres. I planted in July and now we will harvest soon. In other words, it is a vegetable that comes to harvest in 120 days," he said.
The potatoes are not native to Turkey, and Baba said locals are often confused by their unusual appearance. "When they see the product, people think it is beet or radish, but there is no similarity at all. It's called 'sweet potato,' but it tastes more like a chestnut, not a potato.
"Citizens first take note of the product because of its interesting shape. After trying it, they like it. There are several varieties of this potato in different colors. There is a red one and a white one. There is one that is purple on the outside and inside and an orange one. I planted the red and purple varieties."
Sweet potatoes are not just a healthier way to cut cravings for sugar, Baba also pointed out that they offer several health benefits: "Diabetic patients, in particular, prefer these potatoes as a food that contains vitamins A, B, C and B6. They are also an important source of fiber. Cancer patients also prefer sweet potatoes as a healthy choice since they are a source of healing nutrients."