Carver and the Sweet Potato
Of course, the peanut wasn't the only plant that Carver spent time tinkering with in his experiment station; he is also well known for his work with the sweet potato. During his 1921 presentation on peanuts, Carver told the Ways and Means Committee there were 107 different sweet potato products at that time. Some of the notable uses for sweet potatoes that Carver came up with included vinegar, molasses, postage stamp glue, a synthetic rubber and ink [source: Indiana.edu].
Like peanuts, Carver encouraged Southern farmers to produce sweet potatoes because they performed well in the region and provided a cheap source of nutrition. "Here in the South, there are but few if any farm crops that can be depended upon one year with another for satisfactory yields, as is true of the sweet potato," Carver wrote in his 1936 bulletin, "How the Farmer Can Save His Sweet Potatoes and Ways of Preparing Them for the Table."
"It is also true that most of our southern soils produce potatoes superior in quality," he wrote, "attractive in appearance and satisfactory in yields, as any other section of the country" [source: Aggie Horticulture].
Carver's 1936 bulletin offers recipes and instructions for creating foods and household products as varied as sweet potato starch, sugar, donuts and croquettes. The George Washington Carver Museum also lists 14 wood fillers, 73 dyes and five library pastes that Carver developed from sweet potatoes [source: Iowa State University].
During the wheat shortage of 1918, Carver experimented with making flour from dried sweet potatoes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture brought him to Washington, D.C., to discuss the feasibility of producing large quantities of sweet potato flour, and plans were put in place to conduct some large-scale experiments. But when the war ended, so did the wheat shortage, and demand for alternative sources of flour faded [source: Abrams].