Sunday, December 29, 2013

Growing Sweet Potatoes In WNC

Sweet potato soup is warm and soothing for the winter.


Preorder sweet potato slips in late winter to early spring:
• Reems Creek Nursery: 70 Monticello Rd, Weaverville, 645-3937.
• Sow True Seeds: 146 Church St, Asheville, 254-0708.
• Southern States: 464 Riverside Dr, Asheville, 253-9351.
Beloved nearly everywhere south of the Mason Dixon, sweet potatoes are North Carolina’s state vegetable and a large portion of its agriculture — the state yields close to 40 percent of the nation’s entire production.
A distant relative to the common potato, sweet potatoes are not part of the nightshade family, as are standard potatoes. The sweet tuber, a product of the plant’s prolific vine growth (which is also edible), works well to a buttery sauté and cloaked in cream.
Thought to have originated in either Central or South America, sweet potatoes find perfect growing conditions in Western North Carolina: a temperate climate similar to the tuber’s native growing conditions. Traces of Peruvian sweet potatoes date as far back at 8000 B.C.
Today, the majority of the world’s sweet potato crop is produced in China. Half of it is used as livestock feed, but humans eat their fair share.
In 1920, the average American ate about 30 pounds of sweet potatoes annually, compared to today’s four-pound average. Sweet potatoes are fairly easy to cultivate, require little fertilization and grow well in marginal soil. Because of this, sweet potatoes came to represent a hard-times food, falling in popularity as people became concerned with food as a symbol of affluence.
But as Southerners are known for following flavor, sweet potatoes have remained a fundamental element of Southern cuisine. Most Southern cookbooks have recipes dedicated to the versatile applications for sweet potatoes, most often as a whipped casserole spiked with bourbon with a crunchy layer of brown sugar and pecans, or baked into silky pie. Few holiday tables of the South go without such dishes.
The nutritional perks of sweet potatoes are as attractive as their flavor. The greens are some of the richest sources of the carotenoid lutein, which protects against age-related macular degeneration.
The sweet tubers contain high levels of dietary fiber, potassium, beta-carotene (which is a precursor to vitamin A), manganese, iron, calcium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. Written by

Preheat oven to 375. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment.
Arrange squashes cut sides down on one sheet. Drizzle skins with olive oil.
Arrange carrots, sweet potatoes, onion, and garlic on second sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Pour 1 cup of water on each baking sheet.
Place baking sheets in top and bottom thirds of oven, switching halfway through, and roast until all ingredients are tender (time will vary depending on thickness of squashes) at least one hour. Add more water to pans as needed.
Allow contents of pans to cool. Scoop flesh from squashes and sweet potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Add carrots, roasted onion and garlic to bowl with 1/2 the broth. Puree with an immersion blender or place contents in food processor and blend working in batches. Add more broth while blending until puree is smooth.
Place puree in a large soup pot over medium low heat. Add sea salt, pepper and mace to taste. Stir in cream. Remove from heat once soup is heated through.
Portion into bowls and garnish with whole plain yogurt, kefir or sour cream and chopped parsley.

In parts of the world where vitamin A deficiency is rampant, sweet potatoes with dark pigmented flesh have been introduced to help address the problem, with great success.
My experience with growing sweet potatoes has been only positive. My first harvest was one of the most successful, affording crate upon crate to overflow with giant tubers as soil was overturned just before autumn’s first frost. Storing well after a week or two of curing, this is a crop well-suited to small-scale gardeners and larger producers alike, rewarding growers all winter long.
Each year, a basement filled with the season’s crop has granted ample creativity in the kitchen. Favorite applications include baked sweet potato fries tossed with garlic and herbs; a creamy sweet potato soup made with homemade broth and swirled with yogurt; or simply baked whole, split open and topped with a thick pat of sweet cream butter.
However prepared, sweet potatoes seem to fulfill the contemporary quest for remedying comfort-food while giving North Carolina diners a chance to partake in an abundant regional delicacy. Combined, this may tip the pendulum toward a new perception of affluence.


4 large sweet potatoes
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves
Sea salt
1/8 cup chopped parsley or 2 Tablespoons chopped rosemary
Preheat oven to 375.
Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Slice sweet potatoes crosswise in half then lengthwise in half, to create four large pieces per potato. Flesh side down, cut each portion into 1/2-inch sticks. Place in a large mixing bowl. Coat with olive oil and season with salt. Press garlic through a garlic press and toss with sweet potatoes, olive oil and chopped herbs. Divide fries evenly among the baking sheets. Bake until tender, about 15 minutes.
Serve hot.


Feeds a crowd
1 large Hubbard or buttercup squash, quartered and seeded
1 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeds and pulp removed
10 large carrots
3 large sweet potatoes pierced several times with a fork
1 medium sweet onion
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4-5 cups chicken broth
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 teaspoon mace
1 1/2 - 2 cups (you decide) high quality cream
Yogurt, sour cream or kefir for garnish
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish


  1. The greens with the fries seems to me a good combination. How did you beesting cake turn out? All the best for 2014.....

  2. Haven't made it yet but i will tell you, it is close at hand. Happy New year. Enjoy your shower!!!

  3. the one after cutting down all those trees.