If you enjoy sweets and have never grown them, please indulge enough room in a corner of your garden. Enough room so they can sprawl where they want. Have a great pile of friable dirt that is mostly compost. The deeper your pile the better your sweets and the larger and more perfect your sweets. This year proved water is a sweet potatoes best friend, but I imagine if we had not had them in a raised bed it would have been detrimental to their health, probably causing root rot and lots of other funguses and things I can't even imagine. Well drained and consistent moisture is the key. When sweets are first planted we make sure they have adequate mulch but they don't need it replenished as they grow because they grow a mat of leaves that does a surpurlative job. (unless you have critters that lunch on the plants. lol)
This is our four sweet potato plants when they were about 3 weeks in the ground. They had no idea they were to be ravaged three times in their lives. Twice by the ground hogs and once by our deer population. They are in a raised bed that is approximately 20 inches deep filled with compost. the other plants in the bed are ancho chillies which did fantastic paired with them. We only had to keep the vines from growing up into the cages. Everyday, as I perused the garden, I made sure to stop and re-arrange the vines, extracting them from their new found home.
We only raised four plants because we did not have an area ready for them. This year we raised our own plants from the sweet potatoes we saved from last year. Last years potatoes were from a potato we bought at the store that was exactly the consitency, color and flavor we loved. We have no idea the variety. The sign at the store was just a generic "Sweet potatoes 89 cents pound" (Catalogs can't provide taste test.) Raising the starts was very easy and a lot of fun.
This is the recouperated potatoes after they had been eaten to the ground by a family of groundhogs. Notice how big the pepper plants are. A couple of months have gone by. The cage contains my lone eggplant (hunny doesn't like eggplant). We put it in a screen cage to hopefully deter the flea beetle. We are organic and always looking for a natural pest preventative. BTW..aluminum screen does not keep the flea beetles away. The base of the screens goes into the dirt to keep bugs from going under.
This is some of the harvest from only one of the plants, there were other tubers on this plant too. They were similar to the tuber in the back of the picture. The coin is a dime. Those four plants had over 10 lbs apiece under the ground. The largest potato is 16" long X 11" radius, approximately 3 1/2" in diameter. It weighs 2 lbs 12 ounces now. It lost 4 oz in storage. We have saved out two tubers from this harvest for growing our starts.
Last night we had a hunger for sweet potatoes. I thought what can I do to make them different and fun. There is the normal candied sweet potatoes, and of course a fabulous baked potatoes, but I had the urge for something different.
Being there is just the two of us I pulled out a corning ware 1 3/4 quart covered casserole. Retrieved 4 tubers that were about 8 oz each. I have had a lot of trouble with sweets turning black immediately after they are peeled. I decided lemon juice works for other things maybe it will work for the sweets. I put about 1/4 cup of jarred lemon juice in a bowl (no fresh lemons on hand, but I can't think this would make a difference in the final product). I proceeded to slice the tubers in 3/8 inch slices, peeling the slice as I went. Tossed the slices in the lemon juice. When all the slices were prepared I decided to leave the juice in the bowl with them. Next I tossed them with 1 1/2 TBLS of flour. Anytime I have made the candied sweets the syrup on them just doesn't stick the way I like. So I figured this might work. Next I tossed the potatoes with 3/4 cup, loosely filled not packed, light brown sugar. Sitting on the table was a bowl of apricots I had reconstituted for breakfast. I thought, I wonder, and added 16 apricots to the potatoes. With a final tossing I put the mixture in the corningware dish and topped the sweets with a 1/2 stick of butter cut in pats and scattered over the surface. Put on the lid and baked in the oven till the potatoes were done and the syrup thickened. The flour worked perfect. The syrup was very perfectly thickened and the lemon added the right zing. The apricots complemented the sweets well.BTW, the lemon juice kept the black away .
I rate this dish as one of the more delicious ones that have popped into my mind. Outside it was -16 in my valley yesterday (January 10, 2010) and it was very satisfying knowing I didn't have to run to the store to buy the potatoes. (St. Louis at the airport had a -6)