The next veggie in my regular “edible food from our garden” blog is the fabulous sweet potato. Here’s a little bit from me followed by an interview with Do the gardener.
I’m choosing one edible each week that we are currently eating. The growing information is specifically relevant to growing food in Margaret River Western Australia.
I love this versatile, healthy, easy to grow food that adds such great flavour to so many dishes . A plain pumpkin soup comes alive with the addition of sweet potato, roasted sweet potatoes are one of my all time favourite roasted veg and I love sweet potato added to curry, stew or even salad (the young leaves are edible too). To tell the truth just writing about them has made me my mouth water and I’ve had to get up and pop some in the oven.
And I’ve just discovered something else!
How sweet the sweet potato is has a lot to do with the cooking, the faster they’re cooked the less sweet they are and the longer they stay at at temp between 135degrees F and 170degrees F the better (this is all because of a maltose making enzyme that they contain). No wonder I’ve always preferred to slowly roast my Sweet Potatoes and add them at the last minute to stews and curries rather than cook them up with the rest.
So why are they so healthy?
Firstly they are not at all related to regular potatoes which are from the nightshade family (along with tomatoes, eggplants, capsicum) which many people don’t eat for various reasons. Secondly they are a great source of fibre as well as iron, calcium, selenium, many of the B vitamins and vitamin C. They’re also high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A once consumed.
Sweet Potatoes are native to South America and there are thousands of known varieties. The variety we grow here is a large purple skinned, white fleshed variety, the more I read about them though, the more I realise that it is the varieties with coloured flesh (in particularly with purple flesh) that have the greatest nutrient value… I think it might be time to try some new ones!
While I usually enjoy sweet potatoes as a savoury dish, here is a wonderful sweet sweet potato recipe given to me by our good friend Katie Mcloughney.
Recipe……Sweet Potato Brownies
1 cup of mashed sweet potato
1 1/2 (1 can) cups cooked black beans
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup cacao
2 tbsp honey
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
Put all ingredients (except walnuts) in the blender, add walnuts last so they keep their crunch.
Bake in a moderate oven for one hour or until cooked.
To make it completely vegan replace the eggs with aquafaba (chickpea water) and the honey with your favourite sweetener.
Growing Sweet Potato
Interview with Do the gardener
What is the best time to plant
In Spring, what I do is I’ve always got a runner (a mother plant in the garden that I leave in all the time). In the spring I take cuttings (about 10 -20 cm) and plant them in new bed about every 20cm apart, each one goes into a hole made by a stick.
After a a couple of weeks I replace any that haven’t taken.
During spring and summer I keep cutting back the runners to avoid layering and send the energy down to the roots. I also fertilise them with a home made liquid fertiliser made from comfrey, nettle and seaweed.
We then harvest through autumn and winter as we need
How do you prepare the soil?
I always try to protect microbial activity in my soil, so I use a broad fork to aerate it ( to create more space for oxygen, water and root development).
I then add a layer of compost and mix it slightly with the topsoil, when I have some worm castings ready I add that to my compost (about 10%)and some trace elements (I use No Frills rock dust, locally made )
Finally I add approximately 5 to 10 cm layer of wood chips to protect the soil.
See last week’s choice coriander