Last weekend, we harvested our sweet potato patch. Hot damn, it was exciting! Like a very hands-on, dirty, Easter egg hunt. My husband and I were just as thrilled as the kids though, thankfully, our interest lasted significantly longer than theirs :)
We started at one corner of the patch and began to pull back the thick carpet of beautiful green leaves and tangled vines that's been in residence for the last several months, growing vigorously enough to spill out through the fence and begin exploring the lawn.
At each place where we'd planted a sweet potato slip back in June, there was a veritable trove of buried treasure. Scrape away the dirt and you'd find anywhere from three to ten perfect sweet taters!
And they just kept on coming and coming and coming. Luckily, the kids thought it was fun to ferry them over to the plastic milk crates we were using to collect them in, prompting my husband to remark that this was the most truly helpful they'd ever been.
Some of them were tiny and will be perfect for roasting or in stews or soups, others were normal and a few were simply MONSTROUS! Like this one who we nicknamed "King Coil". I'd never seen anything quite like its shape - probably because stuff like this specimen does not make it into grocery stores - it probably gets tossed or left in the field to rot - such a shame and a waste.
Speaking of which, have you seen this brilliant campaign by Intermarche, one of France's biggest supermarket chains? They're significantly cutting food waste by creating a special "ugly foods" aisle in their stores for produce like "King Coil" that looks odd but tastes just fine. And they're charging 30% less for the "cosmetically challenged" fruits and veggies. The French appear to be eating it up! Very, very cool. We need to do the same thing here in the states.
It took a couple of hours, but we got all (or almost all, it's hard to tell for sure) of the sweet potatoes out of the ground. But here's the thing about sweet potatoes, unlike potatoes, you can't eat them right out of the ground. Or rather, you could eat them but you wouldn't want to because they are NOT sweet right away. They need time to cure and to develop their natural sweetness - it takes several weeks. But I'll write more about that next time - the adventure continues...
In the meantime, I'll just sum up by saying that it is, in fact, not hard to grow your own sweet potatoes from whatever your favorite organic variety is at the grocery store, farmer's market, farm stand, etc. It is more work than just ordering slips from a seed catalog but it's also way more fulfilling and magical, in my opinion.
And as for the other part of the Great Sweet Potato Experiment, I am pleased to report that I saw very very few bits of Japanese Silvergrass or other weeds. The spring will be a better test of how well the sweet potatoes may have outcompeted them but I was pretty impressed by the initial results - seems like the weeding followed by cardboard followed by sweet potatoes worked pretty well to smother them.
You might also like:
- The Great Sweet Potato Experiment - Growing Your Own from Supermarket Sweet Potatoes
- Grow Your Own Garlic (now is THE time to plant it!)
- Extending the Growing Season with Cold Frames & Hoop Houses