Digging around in the garden last weekend, we found another sweet potato growing just below the soil surface near the compost pile. We have never planted sweet potatoes in our garden, but we regularly harvest them. They are "volunteers," sprouting from discarded bits and pieces we threw into the compost a season ago.
Sharon Astyk of Causabon’s Book, suggests that super vegetables like sweet potatoes would be a mainstay of a serious garden (Sharon is a prolific writer, and I cannot find this particular post for the life of me, but you should check out her blog). If we relied on our gardens for our family’s nutrition, we would need to be harvesting a lot more higher calorie, densely nutritious veggies like these. Sweet potatoes and certain varieties of winter squash grow so well here (more on Seminole pumpkins – a native winter squash – later). It makes sense to plant a patch.
Things that sprout up on their own in the garden, are the things most well-suited to your particular soil and climate. I try to leave alone at least some of what volunteers this way. And sweet potatoes are often growing when nothing else is anyway. They thrive in the heat that melts many plants, and their ivy-like vines and purple/blue flowers (they are relatives of the morning glory) are just lovely to look at in a late summer garden that's seen better days.
I think we'll plant some on purpose sometime in June or July, when the spring plants have about had it. When we start harvesting the sweet potatoes early in the fall, it will be cool enough that they should keep in the pantry for a while. Some things we will do with them for sure:
- Sweet potato biscuits
- Roasted sweet potatoes (with other garden veg)
- Oven fries
One thing we probably won't be doing is boiling them. So many recipes suggest this, before adding them to a casserole for instance, but it removes so much of their flavor and a lot of the nutrients as well. I have an ancient family recipe that calls for mashed, boiled sweet potatoes and then adds huge amounts of brown sugar and butter to enhance the flavor. If you bake the potatoes you can do without the “fixin’s,” or at least tone them down a bit.
We had sweet potato fries with greens and beans the other day, and they were delicious. Good on their own, with ketchup, or with aioli sauce.
Here’s the simple recipe:
SWEET POTATO OVEN FRIES
Slice sweet potatoes about ¼” thick. Place on well-oiled baking sheet . Bake in oven preheated to 400 for about 15 minutes. Turn with spatula, and cook till tender and just slightly browned – 10 to 15 minutes longer. Add seasonings.
Simple, and good for you – and they’re at the farmers’ markets now.