Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sweet Potato Time in Utley

The two weeks before Thanksgiving is Sweet Potato harvest time in Utley and Elgin, Bastrop County,Texas. The deeps sands found in numerous locations make this one of the few vegetables that can thrive through the summer. The other commercial crops being Okra, Watermelons,Cucumbers (some years) and Cantaloupe, But Sweet Potato is King here, Once this was big peanut country, but only a few people grow them anymore. They drain the soil of nutrients leaving the sandy soil "dead" if those nutrients are not replaced. There are a variety of winter greens that grow excellently with normal winter and rain.  Those include, kale, mustard, turnip, collard, cilantro and green onions but these are usually found in the farmers markets vs. the big chains....Some citrus also makes it through to local markets but most of that comes from further south due to the frost potential.  Pears and the very few peaches grown here are long gone with the pears done by early Sept. And of course there are the Figs and Pecans...This is a bumper year for pecans that are falling in abundance now.  Black walnuts grow wild but there is little demand for those or the hog nut hickory here.  A real October treat is fragile and very sweet native Texas Black Persimmon which is found no where else in the world and defies cultivation...I will do a special blog on that soon.  They do not last long as once they ripen and turn black every creature in the woods is after them.  Pepper, tomatoes and blackberries also are easily grown but usually are found in the kitchen or at farmer's markets...While not a edible vegetable, some folks are successful with growing a wide range of gourds including bird house gourds....My soil is not up to snuff for these.

Like the local sausage no better sweet potato can be found in the state it is said. The sugar content is high and these yams lack the stringiness of those frequently brought in from elsewhere.

It is hard locally to even give them away during the holiday season here as the tubers will be harvested until Christmas, I was recently at a local grocery store and they were 9 cents a pound but typically the HEB chains sells them for .17 during the short harvest season. Yellow onions are affordable again as well. However folks from all over come to buy them by the case and it is not uncommon to see highway vendors set up on highway intersections with their stacks of boxes. What I am curious about is whether feral hogs pose a problem to the potato farmers here. I have heard no complaints but I have no spoken much with the farmers about that.

There are a lot of recipes for sweet potatoes online...I recently found one for fried sweet potato cakes that will just knock your socks off...Experiment and get while they still smell of earth.   And check out this article from "Nutrition" magazine

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