Sweet Potatoes Demanding To Be Eaten

We’ve been away from the farm for several days visiting our children in California, so the Farmer-in-Chief approached Veg Hill with trepidation yesterday.

neglected-cuke-for-siteWe already knew the weeds were out of control; that’s sort of a given when you go off and leave a garden in Alabama for a week in August. We also knew there was lots of food ready. We had invited our friends to come and pick during our absence, and they did; but as we feared they would, they picked carefully and tentatively, leaving big handfuls of peas, beans, and okra undisturbed. So Amanda brought in a full basket of okra last night, along with armfuls of Poona Kheera cucumber. The other cucumbers are still producing, but their quality is declining as the season progresses. She found one pickling cucumber that we had neglected; it grew to the size of a small watermelon and is now basically good for nothing but compost.

What we didn’t anticipate was the sweet potatoes. We like to wait to harvest sweet potatoes until early October, to give them as much time as possible to grow, and then to allow 2-3 weeks of curing outside before we need to protect them from the frost. Several sweet spuds were in no mood to wait for us, though, impatiently poking their heads above the soil and demanding to be harvested here in mid-August. We’ve read you can protect them with mulch and then leave them in the ground, but we didn’t want to take any chances, so we pulled them.

sweet-potatoes-for-siteThey rest now – unwashed – on the work table under the pole barn roof, where they will stay for the next couple of weeks to cure before we put them away for the winter. We will leave them unwashed until we’re ready to eat them, to minimize the chances of injuring their tender skin.

They have that same knarled, twisted appearance that last year’s sweet potatoes did, we think as a result of growing in soil that’s too compacted for them to fill out normally. We had meant to double dig the ground for the sweet potatoes this year to give them a looser growing medium, but we ran out of time and planted them into more “normal” soil. We also planned this year to build a small trellis for the sweet potatoes, to allow their foliage more room to climb and spread out. That didn’t happen, either. Time to pray the Gardener’s Prayer: “Dear Lord: I’ll do better next year.”

Now we wonder whether we’ll be harvesting sweet potatoes steadily between now and October. Are these eager yams unique, or are they just the first wave of a regiment of poking potatoes?

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