Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Beautiful Beauregard

Several weeks back, I noticed the tops of sweet potatoes erupting from the soil under their vines, but I pulled mulch up over the lava-bright tubers to shield them from the sun and left them to grow a while longer. Sweet potatoes are a crop that benefits from an extra-long growing season (They had been planted on Mothers Day weekend in May). They also dislike cool weather, and in September, we still had plenty of warm days and nights ahead.

We’ve finally had some cool nights, though, and the forecast is calling for rain (!) on Wednesday. Since sweet potatoes should be harvested in dry weather, and yesterday (Monday) was supposed to be a warm day, late in the afternoon I dug up my 3x5 foot patch of sweet potatoes. They had had almost five months of growing time.

It took a while to dig them out, but after hauling them indoors and letting them dry overnight—spread out in a single layer on the dining room table—they weighed 33.5 pounds. I sometimes get more, as much as 45 pounds from the same size area, but I don’t think I can complain. Thirty-three and a half pounds is a lot of food for just 15 square feet of planted space.

More importantly, the sweet potatoes were in a part of the garden that gets a bit less sun than some other parts; in high summer, sunlight didn’t reach the vines until after noon. You’d think I would know better than to plant a full-sun plant in less than full sun, but my yard has very little space that is actually “full-sun,” and in the interest of crop rotation, every year some crops have to make do with less. This year it was Beauregard, the variety of sweet potato that I usually plant.

Some people don’t like Beauregard all that much. At the garden in the arboretum, we usually plant the variety called Vardemon, which is a more yellow shade of orange and has shorter vines, but that some people like better. They both taste good to me, but I prefer Beauregard. It may be that curing does more for Beauregard than it does for Vardemon.

Curing, which is essentially just drying the (unwashed, to protect the delicate skin) potatoes in a warm place for several days, seems to make Beauregard sweeter. Even though this really is not a tidy way to run a household, my Beauregards are, right now, spread out on the dining room table with a small space heater stationed nearby.

For storage, after a few days, I will gather them all into a couple of big baskets, which will stay in the kitchen until we use them up. Sweet potatoes are not like regular potatoes in their storage requirements; they do not do well in cold storage. In fact, if their temperature drops below 55 degrees F for very long, their quality drops—the flavor degrades and the center stays hard even after long cooking. Ideally, they would be kept in a humid, dark, constant temperature (~60 degrees F) environment, but my kitchen floor seems to work well enough. Not only will I get to enjoy my beautiful Beauregards at Thanksgiving, but, if past years can be counted on as any kind of guide, I also will still be enjoying them in February.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...