Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

You can begin harvesting your sweet potatoes as soon as the leaves start to yellow, but keep in mind that the longer they are left in the ground, the more vitamins they will have. After a frost the vines will turn dark. At this point, the tubers should be harvested as soon as possible to prevent rot.

On a sunny day when the soil is dry, use a spading fork to dig sweet potatoes. Take care not to nick the tubers because this will encourage spoilage. The tubers can grow out as much as foot from the plants.

Dry your harvest in the sun for a few hours, then bring them indoors and continue drying in a warm, humid place for a couple of weeks. An open area in the kitchen is a perfect spot for drying them. As the tubers cure, the starches are converted to sugars.

Properly cured sweet potatoes will last for several months. For long storage, wrap individual tubers in newspaper and store them in a 55F to 60F basement.

Baked Sweet Potatoes
4 good-sized sweet potatoes, washed and cleaned
3/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon powdered ginger
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Slice each potato carefully in perfect halves and bake them for about 40 to 50 minutes until they are tender. Remove them from the oven and lower it to 350°.

2. With a spoon carefully scoop out the pulp or insides of the potatoes and put the pulp into a large bowl. Make sure the skins of the sweet potatoes remain intact. Mash the pulp with the help of a masher; add the sour cream, maple syrup, ginger, nutmeg, and salt and pepper, and mix this well.

3. Fill the sweet potato shells evenly with the pulp mixture. Put the potatoes in a buttered flat baking dish, and dot each half with a bit of butter. Place them in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes. (The potatoes are done when they turn brown on the top.)

Note: This is a delightful and appetizing accompaniment to meat, fish, or egg dishes, especially during the fall or winter.

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