The Sweet Potato Harvest

I'm not sure how this slipped my mind, but I forgot to fill you in on the sweet potato harvest. Planting sweet potatoes was a first for us, and the slips we got in the mail back in the spring really didn't look like much. We didn't know what to expect from our planting of 25 teeny roots, some with a leaf, some without. They were stringy and limp, and not all of them made it through the transplanting. But eventually the vines took off, and they filled in their area (and then some) by midsummer. You can check out the progress of their grow the through the summer by looking at the aerial views – they were in the driveway quadrant, along the top of that square by the okra.

Anyway, the sweet potatoes got a little bitten back by our first frost back in October, but weren't totally killed until a week or two of cooler nights later. Once the leaves of the vines above ground were dead, we were free to dig up the roots to store and eat. The first ones Kirk found were kind of weird looking:


They are decidedly colon-esque. But they tasted great, which I guess means our strategy of benign neglect did the trick (I read that too much fertilizer could lead to all vine and no potato, and too much water could make them bland).

Not all of them look so weird, although we found a far great variety of sizes and shapes in the garden than I've ever seen in the grocery store:


That's a whole lotta sweet potatoes, and some are huge! We kept them on the table to cure, then brushed off the dirt and packed them in paper bags before temps out on the porch dropped below freezing. The paper bags full of sweet potatoes (and others with our regular potatoes) are stored in the basement, which should provide cool darkness along with a decent amount of humidity for the spuds to overwinter. We check on them whenever we grab some to cook to make sure there aren't any rotten ones to compost. So far, so good.

And speaking of cooking them, so far we've had a couple of great soups. With the sweet potatoes this fall, with these fall veggies as the stars:


Kirk made a twist on a classic leek and potato soup by using sweet potatoes. This is made pretty much the way we make root soup in general, but with just leeks, sweet potatoes, salt, pepper, and thyme. There was also some mache and spinach salad with slivers of yellow carrot, radish, and sun dried tomatoes, plus Tiegan's rolls:


The color of this soup is a little strange. The green leeks and orange sweet potato blend into a kind of ochre-ish color, which doesn't give any kind of hint as to what it actually tastes like, which happens to be sweet and leek-y and good.

A more recent variation on the root soup was leek/sweet potato/turnip, which looked much more orange, and was quite sweet. That's fine with me, because too much turnip is just too much. But I like their weird flavor to add complexity to a soup.

By the way, this whole turning-winter-veg-into-soup thing is kind of French. It's a practical way to eat up what's left in the garden in the winter, because it is nice to have hot food, and it's a good way to disguise what might be less-than-perfect veggies after they've been stored for few months. This is called potage in French – the result of throwing any available veggies in a pot to make a soup for a meal. And that, in turn, is related to the French word potager, where said veggies are grown. So now you know.

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