To most American growers, the leaves of the sweet potato plant are just residue, a byproduct of producing a marketable tuber.

To many West Africans, the leaves are a delightful food in themselves.

As African immigrants bring their tastes to the United States, and Black Americans seek to recover food traditions that were lost under slavery, farmers in the Mid-Atlantic have an opportunity to develop niche markets for specialty and hard-to-find greens.

To meet that demand, growers may need to look with someone else’s eyes at plants they thought they knew — like sweet potatoes.

“It’s something that we know but don’t know,” said Michael Carter Jr., a grower of African greens in Orange County, Virginia, who coordinates the Small Farm Resource Center at Virginia State University.

Carter spoke Jan. 14 during Future Harvest CASA’s annual conference…

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Building a sustainable foodshed from farm and fishery to table