a post-soccer snack in the corn field
In the share this week:
- sweet potatoes
- butternut squash
- acorn squash
- mixed dark greens: Ethiopian mustard kale and regular kale
- “bull’s blood” beets & beet greens
- sweet corn
- slicing and paste tomatoes
- bell peppers: red, orange, green and yellow
- zucchini and summer squash
Season of Plenty
Last week was a three-bagger. For the first time all season, there was no possible way to squeeze all of the week’s veggies into two grocery bags without squeezing the life out of those juicy tomatoes. If you charted the course of the season by the weight of the CSA share, you would see an exponential growth curve. Looking back, the first shares of the spring seem almost quaint, with their heads of light and leafy lettuce and a few green onions for crunch. The shares we handed out the past few weeks resemble the farmer’s market haul of a hungry person shopping for a family of 10 vegetarians.
If you’ve been a little overwhelmed by the quantity of veggies you’ve received recently, I have some good news and some bad news. First, the bad news. By sheer weight, you will be getting more vegetables tomorrow than ever. The good news: you don’t have to eat it all right now. Phew!
Continuing our culinary tour of winter squashes, you’ll be getting two new specimens tomorrow: acorn squash and butternut squash. Butternut is my absolutely favorite of the winter squashes because it is so darn versatile, but more on that later. Winter squashes are built for long-term storage, so you can keep them in a cool dark place for months. If you can wait that long.
But the most exciting news this week is the return of sweet potatoes. Beth has harvested a record quantity of these flavorful, versatile, super-healthy spuds, which are also an excellent storage item for the fall.
red-skinned, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are sometimes called “yams” in the USA
Daddy, Where Do Sweet Potatoes Come From?
We tend to think of sweet potatoes as a Southern crop, but it turns out that you can grow big and beautiful orange-fleshed sweet potatoes up North, too. Sweet potatoes are not from the same family as regular potatoes. Regular potatoes are nightshades, which includes tomatoes, peppers and tobacco. Sweet potatoes, it turns out, are more closely related to flowers like morning glories. Sweet potato plants, which look like thick vines, are also nothing like the tomato-like potato bushes, which need to be hilled over with soil to produce spuds.
Here’s a sweet potato harvesting primer so you can answer your kids’ annoying (er, brilliantly curious) questions about where the heck they come from:
row of sweet potato plants, ready to harvest
Sweet potatoes are planted in the mid-spring as “slips,” which are leaf cuttings from the previous year’s vines. Over the course of the season, the slips extend outward as slow-growing vines with dark-green leaves.
sweet potato plants after a fall haircut
The first step to harvesting sweet potatoes is to cut away and remove the sprawling vines, exposing the top of each root mass.
lookie there — sweet potatoes!
When you pull aside the plastic mulch and shake away the loose dirt, you see the first subterranean sweet potatoes. The spuds are really just the swollen roots of the sweet potato vine. A single plant, grown under the right conditions, can yield 5 or 6 good-sized sweet potatoes.
Sweet Potato Recipes
First, the basics. One of the simplest and tastiest ways to enjoy sweet potatoes is oven-roasting them. Sure, you can bake them whole like baked potatoes, but that doesn’t draw out the full flavor. We suggest peeling and cubing the sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Toss with olive oil, slices of onion, some whole garlic cloves, and lots of salt and pepper and roast in a 400F oven for 30 mins, turning occasionally until nicely browned on the outside and sweetly soft on the inside. If you have regular potatoes, cube those up, too, and add them to the mix.
Next the classics. There are some tried-and-true favorite sweet potato recipes that are all-stars at holiday gatherings and fall potlucks. Try some of these:
Then, the international dishes. Sweet potatoes are a staple in cuisines the world over. Take your taste buds on a journey with these easy recipes:
Acorn & Butternut Squash
The deep orange flesh of butternut squash plays well with both sweet and savory dishes
Winter squashes play a similar role in recipes as sweet potatoes. They both have a starchy sweetness that’s accentuated by a slow roast in the oven or long simmer in a stew. If you haven’t cooked with butternuts very much, the first step is to cut up the darn thing. Here’s a helpful video from Good Housekeeping:
Butternut Squash Recipes:
acorn squashes are the small, dark “acorn”-shaped variety
The skin of a raw acorn squash is harder to peel off, so people usually bake it skin on and remove the peel when it’s soft and pliable. Here are some tempting recipe ideas to get you going:
More Sweet Corn
discs of sweet corn brighten up a fall beef stew
Late-summer sweet corn is like a farewell celebration to the flavors of summer. Beth harvested the last of her sweet corn last week and I’m picking all of mine tomorrow. As can be expected this time of year, the corn was visited by the corn earworm, what one food blog calls the unavoidable surprise of organic corn. The corn earworm is unsightly, but it only messes with the very tip of the cobs. To save you the unsavory job of picking off the stowaways, we’ll go ahead and trim the tops from tomorrow’s corn. If you still find a little green visitor, please don’t throw away the cob. Just cut off any damaged area and enjoy. After all, it’s the last fresh corn of the season!