Sunday, March 20, 2016

Po-TAY-to, Po-TAH-to...

Ah, potatoes.  Oprah says she loves bread.  Well, so do I.  But I also love potatoes.

They're high on the list of what people tell you to avoid if you're trying to lose weight.  But they're chock-full of nutrients.  Especially sweet potatoes.  HERE is what Whole Foods has to say about sweet potatoes.  Well worth eating.  Well worth growing.  And no, a sweet potato is not a Yam, but I grew up around people that used the terms interchangeably.  As long as I know what I mean, and so do you, does it matter?  Yam is fun to say.  "I Yam what I Yam and that's ALL I Yam," is what Popeye The Sailor-Man used to say.  Heh.

Potatoes are GOOD for you.  It's all that crap we put ON them that makes them bad.

It kind of hacks me off that it seems like every recipe I find that contains sweet potatoes also contains a lot of sugar.  I'm actually quite fond of them when they're baked, with just a little butter, salt and pepper added.  The little ones can be scrubbed and boiled, still in their skins, and then the skins will peel right off after the boiling's over.  I usually do all of the little ones right after the curing process, peel and slice and stow away in the freezer.  They will be the first ones to shrivel in storage, otherwise.  I'll peel the big ones with my potato-peeler as I need them and make sweet potato fries in the oven.  Or cut them into cubes, then pan-fry with onion and sweet peppers.  Even Hubs will eat sweet potatoes in these two forms.  But he will not TOUCH those sweet potato dishes that are covered in brown sugar syrup and marshmallows, which surprises me, because he has such a "sweet tooth".  He doesn't like pumpkin pie so he wouldn't care for sweet-potato pie, either.  He doesn't like chunks of summer squash in soup and so he wouldn't like chunks of sweet potato in it, either.  Oh, cooking for a persnickety man.  It sure takes the fun out of it sometimes. 

I like sweet potatoes pan-fried in butter, and then a little brown sugar sprinkled on one side and caramelized.  But I don't eat much sugar anymore, so I'd rather have what little sugar I DO have as honey in my tea, or homemade jam in my plain yogurt.  But it's still less sugar than all those gooey concoctions you find on the table on Thanksgiving. 

My first crop of Beauregards were grown from some grocery store potatoes that I bought around Thanksgiving, didn't use, and they sprouted by the time spring rolled around.  Since then, I've kept them going every year.  Some years, I get some really big ones out of the garden.

This one looks like a critter of some kind, doesn't it?  LOL  And no, this sweet potato was not fibrous at all.  It took a long time to cook all the way through in the microwave, though, and I ended up having to cut it in half, lengthwise.  I just put both halves "cut-side down", and used the "turntable" as a "plate", washing it after the potato was cooked.

In 2014, the rats invaded us and damaged my crop so badly that I barely got enough to start the next year's plants.  That was because I waited until the day before an expected "first frost".  Then I found out (thanks to Glenda) all you really need for sweet potatoes is 100 growing days.  Our first killing frost usually happens in mid-October.  That's 60 days more than the sweet potatoes really need, though they'll keep on growing unless the rats find them first.

So in 2015, Hubs and I dug the potatoes out of the ground in early September.  I was hobbling around on a new knee by then, but I sat on the sides of the bed (it's up high) and dug with my hands and Hubs put the fork into the soil when I told him where and when.  He only damaged one potato this time.  Men.  They go at it full force, like it's a contest of strength or something.  You have to hold them back or they'll have every potato speared on a tine. 

Since I usually get my "slips" in the ground in early May, this means the 100 day growing period has been met in mid- to late August.  This makes more sense, really, because they need to "cure" in a warm place so they can develop their sugar content.  What better month to cure potatoes than late August, early September? 

Also in 2014, I grew a new variety of sweet potato.  Well, new to ME.  It was "Carolina Ruby".  I was really disappointed in the puny little slips that arrived in the mail from Arkansas, an eBay purchase, and a rather expensive one, at that.  $19.95 for 24 slips, all wilted and bound together with a rubber band, and then crammed into the smallest  size box available for the U.S. Postal Service "Priority Mail".  Most of the slips died.  So between having so few survive shipment and then having some die after planting, and then the rat damage on top of that, I didn't get very many.  I saved what I had to start the next year's crop.  And in 2015, I grew them again, this time from slips I grew myself. 

And you know what?  I STILL didn't get a very good harvest from the Carolina Ruby plants, and they didn't grow very big.  I did get enough to taste, and maybe my palate's not as discriminating as some are, but I just couldn't tell much difference in taste or texture between them and my big ol' honkin' Beauregards. 

That one tray on the right?  That's ALL the Carolina Rubies.  The other two trays are Beauregards.  And see those shriveled ones?  Carolina Rubies. 

I will try ONE. MORE. TIME.  And if the Carolina Rubies are AGAIN poor yielders, next year I'm either going to try a different variety, or I'm going back to all Beauregards.  Paula told me she bought some slips from Duck Creek Farms, which is in Mounds, just the other side of Tulsa from us.  But that's even complicated because you can't come to their farm anymore.  I just don't want to buy sweet potato slips that have to be shipped and I'm not sure I'm all that crazy about paying almost a dollar apiece for what amounts to just a cutting.  SUCH a deal for the seller!  I ought to get into THAT!!  I just received an answer to an e-mail I sent them, and they say they will accept online orders and then they can be picked up at the Cherry Street Farmer's Market in Tulsa, by prior arrangement.  But still, the price is a turn-off, PLUS we'll have to drive 50 miles to get them. 

One year, Homeland offered several different varieties of sweet potato for sale around Thanksgiving time, and I bought some O'Henry, and a couple of others, but for some reason none of them worked out, I don't remember for sure but they either didn't make slips in time or they failed after planting.  I'd kinda like to try one of the purple varieties, because I hear the darker the color, the more anti-oxidants they have.

But here is something that kind of confuses me.  We plant regular potatoes by putting a potato, or part of one, that has several eyes, in the ground.  But people don't do it that way with sweet potatoes.  I've planted pieces of sweet potato in the ground and gotten a good crop, before I knew any better.  Hubs said that's how his mom and dad used to plant sweet potatoes, too.

A few posts ago, I showed you how I planted the sprouts from my Yukon Golds with just a little bit of the potato attached, and how well rooted they were after only a week in a tub with a little dirt.  Those potato plants are up in the garden and they look like any normal potato plant would.  I'm assuming they're going to make potatoes, and if they do, it's a "Go Figure Moment".  The only reason I did it this way, however, was because I wanted to process the better part of the potato into something we could eat.  The best of both worlds, if you will.

So it seems to me that potatoes AND sweet potatoes will do ok planted either way.  When I think about my earliest method of planting a piece of the sweet potato, it has pretty routinely given me a stronger plant and a bigger and better harvest. So I'm going back to that method and y'all can do it however you want.  It's a LOT easier for me not to have to make the "slips". 

In fact, I think I'm just going to let them lounge around in the pantry, where the Yukon Golds were when they sprouted, and see what they do.
They already have a good start.  This guy looks like a fish, doesn't he?


They've been folded up in brown grocery sacks since immediately after they were cured, only one layer thick in each sack and then the sacks were stacked away from the light.


But if you're a sweet potato, I guess you know when it's time to sprout.

Even if you're bundled up in a sack.

HERE are some recipes I found, some of them don't appear to be drowning in brown sugar syrup.  I might try that Sweet Potato Slaw and maybe the Snappy Sweet Potato Crackers.  Yes, I know.  Hubs will give them The Old Fish-Eye and I'll have to eat them by myself.  But hey, if they're good, More For Me.

We have had a couple of mornings below freezing.  I went out to the garden on Saturday and covered all the Yukon Gold potato plants, that have emerged, with wood chips.  Hopefully, that'll be enough protection.  There's one more freeze warning for Monday morning.  Then none again till Friday morning.  That's far enough off that the forecast might change by the time we get there.  Yesterday morning I went out and hosed down all the fruit trees when temps got below freezing.  This morning, we didn't think temps got low enough to where I'd need to, and I, frankly, wasn't in the mood.  I don't like being cold and I got wet and cold the day before.  This morning I had a headache and my shoulder was bothering me.  (Whine.)  I guess you might say this was one of those mornings that Hubs could've said, "Sometimes I wake up Grumpy and sometimes I just let her sleep in...." 

And THAT, my friends, is where I'm at with potatoes.  Rock On.  Hugs xoxoxo

2 comments:

  1. Hi Ilene. I am aka Emeline on the DTE forum. What a great blog you have! I've really enjoyed reading some of it and getting to know you a little better.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Emeline, good to see you here! When I saw you had started following, I wondered if you might be somebody from there. Welcome.

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