Sunday, October 7, 2012

Digging Sweet Potatoes, a Davidson County Adventure

When asked what my plans were for this weekend, I responded that I was going home to dig sweet potatoes. I got quite a few strange looks and unsure “that’s cool”s. Some of my friends are from Charlotte or Chicago or South Korea and have probably never seen a sweet potato in a context other than on their plate. However, my family treasures our garden. During the summer it is a bounty of fresh produce and provides hours of enjoyment through picking and watering (I understand that this only constitutes “fun” to a certain segment of the population).
Our family garden’s growing season extended a bit longer than usual last summer when I bought six sweet potato plants on a whim. My rationale was that I like sweet potatoes and that we probably had a place to put them, so why not? Sweet potatoes are meant to be dug up before the first frost (according to my 93 year old great-grandmother whom I trust more than most gardening authorities). Therefore, last year my parents dug up the little plot of land in which we had planted the 6 plants in beginning-mid October. I think they were initially surprised to find way more than six sweet potatoes and were surprised that they were of any size since we had literally ignored them. But, the whole bed was filled with sweet potatoes, and some were really huge (like bigger than a football). Unfortunately, I was studiously occupied at Davidson during this inaugural digging of sweet potatoes. Fortunately, I was able to enjoy sweet potatoes until well into the spring. This year, I helped plant the sweet potatoes again. The only change from last year was that we planted more sweet potatoes and one time I sprinkled chili powder around the perimeter of the sweet potato patch (deer or rabbits had been eating the leaves off of the vines and I wanted to deter them but I can’t really confirm how well this worked). I have to say that digger sweet potatoes was way cooler than it sounds.  Ripping away the leaves and vines to see sweet potatoes bulging up out of the earth, with many more hidden below the surface is a way of seeing what nature can produce and connecting this back to what you eat.
Jerry and Dad cutting away the vines
Me holding up some small sweet potatoes
Our bounty of sweet potatoes, stored in the basement on newspaper these will last for a LONG time

Below are a few things I learned from digging sweet potatoes:
-the ones on top are the easiest to spot and dig up (obvious, but true)
-the ones that you can’t see at first are prime targets for shovels or trowels to slash into or for me to snap in half while trying to pull out (oops!)
-digging sweet potatoes can be a good excuse for playing in the dirt, a trowel or shovel is not necessary as long as you use your digits
-don’t discriminate; oddly shaped and broken in half sweet potatoes are still perfect for making sweet potato butter (recipe here)
-scrubbing the dirt off of sweet potatoes is messier and more time-consuming than it seems
-sweet potato butter is right up there with pumpkin butter and apple butter in terms of deliciousness
The above mentioned sweet potato butter on top of a healthy pumpkin cake. I have also found the sweet potato butter delicious in oatmeal!
Enjoy this fall weather and please eat something with pumpkin or sweet potato, lots of spice, and everything nice!

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