My garden this year is embarrassing. A rough, cold, wet spring killed of a number of my plants and prevented even more from ever sprouting. Along with that, I never went back out to replant what had died or not sprouted. And then the grass shoot up, some wild creeping cucumber like vine (read nasty weed) took over, and my garden was in a poor state.
Having a bad start, I never quite caught up with the general maintenance of my eight garden bed and perennial food bearing plants outside the beds. Which is why this is a happy story: three weeks ago, I harvested what had grown and given how bad it seemed my garden had gotten, I was pleasantly surprised by the results!
I started with my sweet potatoes. I cover the ground around my sweet potatoes with black plastic to keep them toasty but this also keeps the weeds away. The only major concern then, for taking care of them is watering which I was able to handle. I’ve been attempting to grow sweet potatoes for four years now and this is only the second year there have actually been potatoes to harvest. This year the potatoes were bigger and sweeter than last year! I hope a trend is developing.
I start harvesting sweet potatoes by cutting off all the potatoes’ vines and digging with a hand spade around the roots to find the ones that grew into potatoes. It is a labor intensive process and I still manage to slice a few little guys in half but it is satisfactory and effective. I saved all of the root shoots this year, even the ones that are way to small to eat in the hopes I can properly cure them and replant them next year.
There were also green beans, tomatoes, jalapeno, a kohlrabi, and a carrot to harvest. The jalapeno were the biggest surprise given the weather. I planted four rows of carrots early in the spring. It was so cold that only a few sprouted and only one grew to an actual carrot. I love carrots out of my garden! There is something particularly tasty about home ground carrots and I am sad I didn’t get more but grateful there was even one.
I spent a good portion of the afternoon out in my garden, happy the sun was shining while I dug my hands in the dirt. It had been in 40 deg in the mornings the week prior to my harvest (including an overnight frost warning). Two years ago, I waited until the first frost hit and ran out to harvest the sweet potatoes as soon as I woke up the next morning. It was cold. And unpleasant. I felt like I picked a good time to harvest this year, threat of frost looming but not so close that harvesting was super unpleasant. Little did I know that an 80 deg October week was on its way that might have bulked up a few more of my potatoes. Oh, well. I’m still eating the sweet potatoes I harvested.
The night of my harvest, I cooked a harvest dinner including roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed sweet potatoes green, fried green tomatoes and steamed green beans. It was the first time I’d eaten sweet potato greens. Having heard they were a lot like spinach, I saved some this year to try. They are indeed a lot like spinach. I love spinach and after trying them, I love sweet potato greens as well. Had I known how much I would like them, I would have saved the entire bed of greens (of which there was a lot) and made enough frozen sweet potato greens to last all winter! Alas, it was not so, but I will attempt it next year.
The sweet potatoes, as homegrown and heirloom varieties tend to be, were not as sweet as store-bought sweet potatoes. I grew three different heirloom varieties that I get from Sandhill Preservation in Calamus, IA: Forkleaf, Indiana Gold, and Carver. Forkleaf had the best yield and Indiana Gold seemed sweet, but the differences in flavor between the three were very subtle.
It was a lovely meal shared with Pretty Boy and the Mojo Monster. Special because of the company; special because of the beautiful autumn day; and special because my work (abet not as hard as in other year but still notable) that yielded produce from my backyard garden.