sweet potatoes

Christmas Food Faves

During the holiday season, people eat. (At least I know I do!) They gather around the kitchen and bake together, stuff turkey together, whip up potatoes and pies–or any wonderful mix of dishes that bring comfort and cheer. And this time of year, some of my favorite vegetables are in season and ready for harvest. At least in Florida.

Compost sweet potatoes make for the most delectable side dish. Even better when topped with marshmallows!

top sweets with marshmallows

 

Brussels sprouts and bacon add intense flavor to any turkey meal.

Savory Brussels Sprouts

My husband prefers corn with his turkey. Why not spice it up and roast it with those last jalapeno peppers from the garden? There’s one good thing about warm weather in December. Tomatoes and peppers enjoy a prolonged harvest season!

roasted corn

Me. I like mashed potatoes and stuffing with my turkey. I also like pie. Pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie–they both work!

sweet potato pie

Speaking of pumpkins… I miss my little wee-one!

kids love pumpkins

She’s a teenager now, but I remember this day in the pumpkin patch like it was yesterday. **sigh** She used to let me buy her clothes, drive her around town and snuggle. But alas, things change. Hug your loved ones. It’s that special time of year…

Merry Christmas!

It’s A Record-Breaking Size!

I harvested a humongous sweet potato. And I mean humongous. It might not be record-breaking by Guinness standards, but it sure is by mine. A whopping 9 lbs — BIGGER than my newborn babies, mind you, both of whom weighed in below 8 lbs. Pretty incredible, huh?

Record size sweet potato

I think so. And you’ll never guess where I found it.

Birthing the big sweet potato

My compost pile. Yep, it was lurking deep beneath my kitchen scraps and lawn leaves, hidden from view save for the glorious array of green leaves above surface; the mega sweet potato. I’m telling you, if you don’t have a compost pile, you need one. More

Summer Success

For many of you, gardening season has just begun but for me, it’s a constant turnover. Our cool weather plants have long gone, replaced by summertime sweeties like okra and peppers, peanuts and pumpkins. Yep, if you want a pumpkin for your doorstep come Halloween, you’d better start planting it now. These babies take a while–especially if you like them big!

Big Max pumpkins

And we do. The bigger the better. These beauties were from a few seasons back, but it’s always a good idea to remind yourself of the goal. Helps to keep you motivated through the long hot summer. Peppers enjoy the heat as well and are thriving in varying stages. Green…

green peppers

Hot chili… More

Summer Gardening is Hot!

And I don’t mean as in “trends” (because gardening is ALWAYS in style :)) but temperature. I mean, it’s seriously hot out there, dehydration worthy heat stroke-inducing hot.  Gardening in Florida during July and August is not for the meek, the weak or those otherwise interested in vacation. Now this isn’t to say there aren’t plants that will tolerate it because there are–plenty!  Okra, peanuts and peppers love the heat. Sweet potatoes and sunflowers soak up the sun like candy, but me?

summer sunflower

Not so much. I have to admit, summer is not my favorite time in the garden. I still plant and grow, but it’s the weeds that really have me singing the blues. They’re everywhere. It rains, they cheer. It doesn’t rain, they hold tight until it does, and here in Florida, they won’t have long to wait. It’s a cycle. Reliable, predictable and important to note. Why?

It’s essential to know your limitations. I for one have decided to dial back on my summer garden. I hate to do it. It feels like I’m quitting–and I’m no quitter–but at some point you have to accept reality. Same as the aches and pains I’ve come to accept as part of the aging process, the temperature outdoors this time of year is plain too hot for me to enjoy the process. Sure I could wake up and head out early to beat the heat, but that would interfere with my coffee time. Course I could always wait until dusk, but the kids tend to get hungry around then and I’m on dinner duty. More

Summertime in the Garden

Summer is not the time to be gardening. Not in Florida, anyway. It’s the time for vacations with the kids, days at the beach, the lake, a friend’s house. Summer is too hot for gardening in Florida. Pretty much too hot for anything but water fun! However, I’m a year-round gardener which means there’s ALWAYS something growing in my backyard. And I’m not talking grass, I’m talking edible. :=)

Sweet potatoes love the warm weather and grow all summer long to deliver a bounty of golden goodness come fall. These babies are sprawling into the beds on either side where I have dutifully made room for them.

sweet potatoes in bloom Okra is another plant that loves it sunny and hot and as you know, this year I’m playing around with a new variety! Red Okra, of the “Billy Bob” variety (the name still makes me smile.

 red okra

My Valencia peanuts are thriving, burrowing away so that we may have peanuts to boil come football season. You have tried my Southern Boiled Peanuts recipe, haven’t you? More

Planting Sweet Potato Slips

Wow. It’s finally happened. My sweet potato slips have sprouted!

sweet potato slips have sprouted

Aren’t they wonderful? Now mind you, not all of them have sprouted. As with humans, you have your early bloomers and your late bloomers and so it goes with these little beauties. But don’t dismay–Mother Nature has a plan! By allowing only a few to sprout, she’s encouraging you to “stagger” your planting.

“Stagger my planting? What the heck does that mean?” More

How to Make Sweet Potato Slips

Summer is fast approaching (in Florida, anyway) which means it’s time to get your slips in the ground and growing.  They require a long growing season and they require warmth.  But they don’t grow from seed potatoes, rather the “slips” created from your sweet potatoes.  How does one create a sweet potato slip?

The technique is easy.  You simply cut your sweet potato in half, perch it upon the mouth of a jar or glass (suspended by toothpicks works well) submerging the bottom half in water.  Voila!

creating slips

Place in a sunny location and keep the water level high enough so that the bottom half remains wet and then watch your potato sprout.

After a while—times vary, but you can expect to wait days, even weeks in some cases—shoots (leaves) will form on the top of your potato.  You can gently remove these and place them in water, again half-submersed, and a tangle of roots will develop.   More

Swimmin for Sweets

Now I don’t know about you, but when it comes to the garden you cannot have more fun than swimmin’ for taters! 

That goes for dirt, too, because potatoes grow underground and harvesting them requires digging–and lots of it!

But what kid doesn’t like to dig?  None that I know of and this harvesting potatoes business is a lot like digging for buried treasure. 

I mean the squeals that erupt when a child hits “gold” are incredible.  Although the battles can be equally spectacular.  When you have several little bodies scoping out the same general vicinity it’s bound to happen…

“It’s mine!”

“No, I found it first!”

“Get your hands off MY potato!”

“Kids, kids–these sweet potatoes are for ALL of us and you know what we’re going to do with them?”

One bright child shouted out, “Eat them!”

“That’s right!  We’re going to make sweet potato french fries and sweet potato pie!”

Hoots of joy explode across the garden.  “I love sweet potato pie!”

 Of course you do.  We all do!  And harvest resumes in earnest, the silly little tug-of-war long forgotten.  Though to be honest, it did get a little dicey there for a while and I have the broken potatoes to prove it!  But the kids had fun harvesting what they grew, tossing vines and root sprigs to the compost pile, looking forward to chowing down the produce.  Suffice it to say, you will want to send home a note prior to harvest:  swimming through dirt, dress accordingly.

And that’s what counts:  completing the cycle of growing your own vegetables.  We plant the seeds, we help them grow, we harvest them, eat them and compost what we don’t use for next season’s crop.  Beautiful, isn’t it?

 

Summer Peanuts and Sweet Potatoes

With the school year winding down, the kids have harvested and cleared their black eye peas and black beans, then tilled the area to soft perfection. 

Harvested the green peppers and remaining cucumbers.

Yanked out the scallions and carrots, too.  (Something they’ve been aching to do.) 

Can you blame them?  Those carrot cupcakes were delicious and will make the perfect accompaniment to their year-end picnic party!  Found this exciting fellow in the bunch, though we’re not exactly sure what happened. Freak of nature? 

Hit an underlying root and split growing direction? As promised, the kids planted their sweet potato slips and gave them a good start in hopes of a fall harvest.  These sweets take a while, 100-120 days at least.  I say at least, because I’ve learned if I allow them to grow longer (forget they were in the ground), they can reach impressive sizes.

And because we are avid gardeners and will only be away from our garden for a few months, we decided to add peanuts to the mix!  They’ll make great snacks at school…

And with 4-5 nuts per shell, we did the math and realized whoa–we’re going to reap a lot of peanuts upon our return!  You will, so long as your tilling was deep and thorough. 

As a reward, we celebrated with cucumber soup made from their very own cucumbers, onions a few leaves from my homegrown stevia plant. 

Man, life is good!  Check the recipe section for full details.

Giving Thanks

I imagine Thanksgiving looks different in each household, each part of the country.  In my home, the day is spent at home, cooking, playing, enjoying the simple pleasures of life.  While I don’t have much time for the garden today (food assignments gobble up the majority of my day!), I did venture out to check on the sweet potatoes.  What Thanksgiving table would be complete without sweet potatoes?

And add this to my list of blessings — my slips have grown into sweets.  Varying sizes and shapes, this is what I’ve come to expect from this golden harvest.

On the other hand (more aptly other end of the garden), those sweets leftover from last season and started themselves — proof Mother Nature is quite prolific — have done quite well. 

Though when compared to Mother Nature’s batch, I’d say I didn’t do too bad.  Good size, nice shape, they’ll all taste the same in the mashed sweet potato dish!  More important, it just goes to show, you ALWAYS have time for the garden.  Happy Thanksgiving!