Monday, November 01, 2010

Sweet Taters

When I set out to create this garden, I set out to grow things that my husband and I love to eat, and to provide as much of that food we love as possible. What I have discovered in this process is that we love a lot more foods than we knew we did. I didn't know that there were hundreds of kinds of peppers with a huge range of flavors from citrusy to mellow, sharp to smooth, juicy to cocoa-powdery, nor did I know pepper flowers of different species looked different from each other. I hadn't ever had a salad that was made entirely of mache or nibbled on cucumbery salad burnet. Though I had read about fava greens, I had never had a steaming, slightly charred stir-fried plate full of them. I hadn't tasted garlic scapes, the subtleties in flavor between different varieties of garlic, or the fresh bite of Egyptian Walking onion greens.

I planted sweet potatoes because I love sweet potatoes. I did not know beforehand that the leaves were mighty tasty steamed or sautéed. And, before looking into sweet potatoes to grow, I didn't even know there were so many varieties.

Yesterday, while I was harvesting my first ever crop of sweet potatoes, I kept squealing with surprise and delight as I pulled up plants. One great pleasure of harvesting sweet potatoes is that one has no idea of what one will pull up. Some of the vigorous looking vines had only one normal-sized root hiding beneath; others had large clumps of six to eight meaty roots. E came out to see what I was doing and shot a picture of me with mud, bad hair, beat-up paint stained clothes, and a bunch of large-rooted potatoes.

The two varieties I planted grew differently from each other. The Violetta had lovely vines with bright green leaves and a few regularly-shaped neon violet roots with white flesh. The Red Wine Velvet had purple-tinged purple growth and many (six to eight) irregularly-shaped, burgundy-skinned, orange-fleshed roots.

As tempted as I am, I have not yet tasted either of the varieties. Instead, I have to cure them, a process in which the tender, disease-prone skins of the roots firm up at high humidity and warm temperatures while some of the starches convert to sugars, sweetening up the roots. I wrapped the sweet potatoes in large towel, placed them in a box, then placed the box next to my husband's computer, a place I figured would be warm all the time. There they'll sit for 10 days. I hope that makeshift process, imitating what large farmers do with their harvests, works here. 10 days, I can't wait.


If you'd like to see what others are harvesting this week in gardens the world over, stop by Daphne's Dandelions and check out Harvest Monday.


Gail M. said...

I always think "yams" when someone says sweet potatoes. And I guess other people do too at times. Now, are these really sweet potatoes, or yams? I love the leaves, but always thought I was eating yam leaves. (Maybe I wasn't!)
Also, my dh never knew he loved plums before trying a ripe one from the tree. I think it is that home grown part of the equation that helps us realize how much we like food!

Daphne Gould said...

Oh that is just cruel. I've not grown sweet potatoes, but having to wait to eat them would be hard. I suppose I do it for squash, but still hard to imagine.

I've eaten a lot of different things because of my garden too. But the best is seeing others blogs and then trying something new. Sometimes I hate it, but often I love it.

Dave @ HappyAcres said...

Sounds like you had a lot of fun digging those sweet potatoes! I know the waiting is difficult, but it should be worth it once you taste those taters. They do get sweeter after a few weeks.

I got that Ajo Rojo garlic planted this weekend. Now we will see how it grows here! Thanks again for sharing.

michelle said...

Oh how fun! That is one crop that I've never tried to grow. But, I think they want more heat than what I get here. It might be worth trying just for the chance to nibble on the leaves (I didn't know you can eat them).

Christina said...

Oh my, all my comments were placed in the spam folder, so I didn't know I had received any until now. Sorry for my late response.

Gail: Yams are a different species entirely. I've never, ever seen true yams in a store in the United States; everything that is labeled a yam here is a sweet potato. I can picture your dh pulling a plum from a tree with a skeptical look on his face--thank goodness he's converted to be a plum lover!

Daphne: I know! They're still sitting in the box curing, and I'm desperate to try one! And you're right--the other blogs get us to expand our horizons.

Villager: If the Ajo Rojo doesn't do well the first year, try it for a second to see if it adjusts to your climate. I hope you love it as much as I do. Thanks for the advice on the sweet potatoes.

Michelle: I've read of people growing sweet potatoes in the far northern parts of the US if they start them indoors. If you're interested, I can send you some slips in the early spring. Just let me know!

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the great yam/sweet potato debate. Makes me curious to know what a yam tastes like, because I'm sure I've never had one.

Chris said...

so sweet potatoes (or yams, i suppose?) are a spring crop in southern california? when did you plant them and did you purchase seed potatoes? i never realized you could eat the leaves, too. so much we learn by gardening. i never knew you could eat beet leaves until last year!

Christina said...

Hi Chris: I planted my sweet potatoes in the beginning of July, just because that is when I finally had the bed ready and when I received the slips (cuttings) from Sandhill Preservation. However, I plan to plant them around April next year. I'm sure that will boost my productivity. They do not tolerate frost. Give 'em a try--I think you'll enjoy growing them!

Anonymous said...

What a great haul!