Does anyone else love the book “Harold and the Purple Crayon“? We must have read that book aloud to our kids — along with a couple hundred more of their favorites — about a thousand times. One of my favorite lines has always been about “the nine kinds of pie that Harold likes best.” When I was setting up my little sweet potatoes to start slips for planting in May, I was reminded of the pies.
I know that seven isn’t the same as nine, but it still seems like a lot. I had managed to save six half-gallon cartons for starting them in, but I had to rustle up one more long, shallow container at the last minute.
|Five of Amy’s sweet potato varieties, making slips for planting in late May.|
|Two more sweet potato varieties making slips for this summer’s crop.|
To be honest, I haven’t even tasted all of these yet, so I don’t know if they are my favorite in terms of flavor, but three were given to me by a sweet-potato-loving friend. We had met through the Extension office, when he was looking for a variety called Alabama Nugget. I told him about a place in Alabama that sells a pretty large assortment of sweet potato varieties, but mostly to small farms, so they are sold in bundles of 100.
My new friend is retired, so he just got in his truck, along with another friend, and they drove to the farm in Alabama. Since everyone involved loved sweet potatoes, it was easy to make more new friends, and the farmer and his (grown) son were very helpful.
My friend has been out to the farm in Alabama a few more times, and he has shared with me what he has learned along with some different sweet potato varieties that he is hoping will come close in flavor and texture to his favorite, but lost, Alabama Nugget.
Of course, Beauregard is one that most people know. It grows big and cooks up soft and sweet.
Purple Delight is much drier, almost like a dry Irish-type potato, and it is hardly sweet at all. It is a great addition to a mixed pan of roasted vegetables. The tubers grow almost straight down, and they are long enough that when a plant is harvested, if you get it up without breakage, it looks kind of like a purple octopus.
Porto Rican Gold is the heirloom from my friends Jack and Becky; it’s the one that Becky’s family grew commercially a hundred years ago in this county. The family has perpetuated the line all this time, but Jack and Becky are the last in their family to continue to grow it. I shared it with my new friend, so it would have a better chance of continuation.
The Annie Hall is paler fleshed, drier in texture than Beauregard, but with a different flavor. I like it a lot, but it is not a very productive variety. Last year I only had enough to eat two of them.
The others — Covington, Alabama Red, and Calvert/Cape Hatteras — are all new to me. I’m looking forward to growing them!
To start the slips, I have placed the tubers in a mixture of sand and compost that will be kept moist. There already are plenty of little sprouts showing, so I am hopeful that I will have enough to fill the garden. The sweet potatoes have one of the larger spaces in my yard’s rotation this year.
Anyone looking for more detailed growing information might try the Organic Gardening article “Sweet Potato Growing Guide.”
Elsewhere in the garden, other established crops are doing well. The long bed of allium family crops that were all planted last fall still looks good.
|Multiplying onions, garlic, shallots.|
The cilantro is making everyone happy. Joe loves it, I love it, my six pet bunnies love it!
|Fall-planted cilantro is large and leafy in spring.|
And of course, the lettuces are looking good and adding nice color to our meals. There had been radishes in the spaces between the lettuce plants originally, but we’ve eaten most of those. Luckily, I’ve started more here and there throughout the garden. We eat a lot of radishes. There were some thin slices on the sandwich I made for yesterday’s lunch.
|More lettuce! And inter-cropped radishes!|
Hope that everyone else’s gardens are growing well!