November 22nd, 2020


Convolvulaceae-Ipomoeeae: Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) (garden)

I harvested sweet potatoes yesterday. My fantasies of tens and tens of pounds of harvest were for naught. While the vines went everywhere, they were not able to produce significant tubers where they rooted. I think the plants are naturalized in the coastal plains where the soil is sandy, and my clay is just too heavy. I do see changes in the soil -- it's definitely becoming a little darker as organic matter slowly gets mixed in. But it's not easy enough for plants yet

My slips were from the local farm supply (this URL unlikely to last more than six months). I had chosen scarlet (a pure purple) and NC-122. NC-122 seemed more vigorous, and it certainly sent out many vines. But scarlet produced the most sizable tubers, the largest of which i stabbed with the digging fork. Just like with potatoes, i do wonder how many i might have missed. Perhaps some of the tubers -- particularly the little stringy ones -- will over-winter and sprout next year.

It was an excellent ground cover. Pity the deer adored the vines, nibbling any that made it to the fence. The vines seemed to keep the stilt grass down in the area where the plants started early. There were some areas where the vines extended into that seemed pretty stilt grass rich.

I will try and keep one or two of the smaller purple potatoes as mother plants for next year's slips. I can imagine them doing well around the base of okra. I won't have the conflict i had this year, of waiting for potatoes to be done, so i will have more room to plant. And i'm comfortable with making my own slips.

I did find a crookneck squash had finally set fruit just before the freeze.

I'll be fertilizing next year. I suspect the low output of the garden due to weather patterns that delayed the start of the growing season. While we had a very warm winter 2019-2020, and March was extremely warm, May and June were unusually cool. I think the warm March affected my little plot even more by bringing an early green up in the trees, which shaded the ground, compounding the cool spring. Everything seemed to take forever to get started this year.

So for 2021 i have a number of plans: create a lightweight fencing around the driveway island (that is likely the warmest and sunniest place in the yard). Plant tomatoes, peppers, basils, and marigolds there (nothing particularly attractive to deer or rabbits). No solanaceae in the fenced garden plot, which means no potatoes next year. Apply the feather meal for nitrogen and the other supplements. Cucumbers worked this year with no significant powdery mildew, so try cucurbits again.

Anyhow, now i need to figure out what to do with the sweet potatoes. I'm not sure i can "cure" the giant purple ones i stabbed.
This is also posted at .

(morning writing, cooking, garden)

For some reason i can't quite fathom, i really really want a tropical storm Kappa. I'm not sure why: the thirty we've had this season is a nice round number.

We've had a second mason come look at the steps. I think he's going to come in under the previous dude. He also won't be working in his off time which makes a huge improvement in how long it takes.

I'm planning to make an apple pie from scratch for Thanksgiving. I started last night, given some experience with misreading durations, compounded with the the discovery that recipes assume "mise en place," that the time starts when you have everything out and measured and prepared as described in the ingredients list. I won't measure everything into little pretty glass bowls, but i did measure all the dry ingredients that need to be mixed together at the beginning and began shredding the frozen butter. I have some suspicion that i should have shredded the butter directly into flour. I got a sense, at least, of how quickly the butter warms up so the second shredding will start with a freezer kept box shredder.

This is one of the recipes i'm planning to use -- not this crust -- And i bought one each of the nice big loose apples. I'm trying to decide if i will peel some or all. I don't do so, usually. On the other hand, peeling the soft-fall-apart apples seems to be the point, so they fall apart.

Christine was VERY SAD that we wouldn't just buy a Marie Calendar Dutch apple pie, but yielded as i pointed out she could come home with one of those whenever she wanted to.

With the sweet potatoes, i cooked the two large purple ones that i had damaged. 28.4 oz and 9.2 oz. I've never noticed the latex ooze out of a sweet potato. This is probably because i only recently began eating them and usually just throw the thing in the microwave whole. This time - wow - sap. I cooked both of them, the large one in half, for an hour in a 350°F oven. My! First, the color keeps with an intensity that is far more pleasant than how any of the blue potatoes after cooking. It was not as cloyingly sweet as some sweet potatoes -- i don't know if that's because it hadn't been cured and stored -- but it was still sweet. Christine loved it: i think it's the first time i've grown something not commonly available in the grocery store that she's enjoyed.

Later on i washed and cut up all the tiny pencil-thin (and thinner) tubers. After a little bit, i could tell which ones were too tough and which were all right. These were mostly from the NC-122 plants: a beautiful rose red outside, bright orange inside. I roasted those with olive oil, salt, pepper, onion, and all the young potatoes i dug up. It was beautiful and colorful. I'll make sure to collect the tiny roots in the future.

I think i can really see the difference in feature selection in the two different plants. The NC122 had all the tubers close to the top of the soil. In looser loam, i could imagine just pulling the plants up and getting all the roots, clustered tight at the stem. The purple one had tubers strung out along the roots, some somewhat deep. I suspect NC-122 is engineered for just-so soil. The purple ones might be more adaptable.
This is also posted at .