We grow one crop really, really well. Corn, with all those sweet golden kernels, is a personal fave, but it’s a matter of unrequited love. Despite endless fertilizing, loving care and excessive weeding, corn routinely jilts us without a backward glance. Both Bill and I like broccoli, but it’s a one-sided affair. We like broccoli, but it sneers at us, bolting out of control without warning. Some veggies just don’t belong in our backyard.
Surprisingly, our heavy clay soil, which sucks up organic material and digests it as if never applied, produces against all odds, abundant root crops. Now I bear no love for any of the “ips”–turnips, parsnips, so they never appear in a Rhoads garden. In point of fact, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, we grow truly magnificent sweet potatoes. Yup. And we love them. From first planting until the last yummy morsel in the belly, we enjoy these magical orange sweeties.
A good crop requires a little preparation. Well, really, a lot of preparation. To get you ready, start dreaming about them in the fall, because then it’s Thanksgiving and then it’s Christmas and if you pause to catch your breath, you’ll be behind schedule. To avoid that problem, I like to start in early December. If you prefer growing them to buying them at a local grocery store…here’s the low down:
- Start a couple sweet potatoes skewered with toothpicks over quart jars of water, much like growing an avocado seed. I start mine before Christmas. Keep water levels steady while it grows a jar full of roots.
- As green shoots sprout, pinch them off at the base, and root them in water.
- By mid-February you need to be planting them in pots to harden before transplanting them into the garden.
- Transplant your precious babies or purchase slips to plant just around Mother’s Day.
- Weed well just before they vine out of control. You’ll thank me later.
- Harvest before the moles get hungry. Fair warning. Their funny shapes crack us up.
- After harvest you need to lay them out in a warm place, about 75 to 80 degrees, to let them sweeten up.
- Wrap individually in newspaper and store them in a dry place.
Ours last all winter and all summer besides. We grow Goliaths of majestic proportions, and right now we are finishing up last year’s harvest. As usual, all the ones too big to use as bakers remain. This is my favorite way to handle the biggies, and yes, we gorged ourselves with half a cookie sheet of these just the other night. Thinking you might be interested, here’s the recipe:
Roasted Savory Sweet Potatoes
Cut up the sweet potato into chunks. Dribble with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and garlic pepper. My favorite blend comes from an Italian neighbrohood in St. Louis, and it offers just the right blend between savory and sweet. Roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and chow down!