Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Goodbye Tomatoes, Hello Funny Looking Sweet Potatoes!
Many of our farmers sold their last harvest of tomatoes as "canning tomatoes - not so pretty but delicious" at their farmers markets this past weekend. On Saturday, volunteers from Bowdoin College helped many of the farmers uproot finished tomato plants and the stakes that have held their vining sprawl off of the ground since they were planted in June. Having grown up in the deep South, I am still surprised every summer by how short tomato season is. Despite 10 years of farming in Maine, I still expect tomato season to stretch on endlessly like it did in my childhood. I guess that the ephemeral nature of tomato production in Maine is what makes the short few weeks they are available so special.
If you haven't already received them, your CSA shares should soon be weighted down with winter squash, leeks, and some small funny looking sweet potatoes. It wasn't until a few years ago that farmers in Maine even realized that it was possible to grow sweet potatoes in Maine. By any stretch of the imagination, it is hard to say that they grow well in our northern latitude. Like most professionals, farmers in Maine attend many conferences about growing food. The vast majority of conferences in Maine in the past few years have contained a session about growing sweet potatoes. The grand conclusion thus far is that no one is quite sure what combination of soil type, temperature, variety, soil fertility, pest management, rainfall/irrigation, planting date, harvest date, and curing time reliably results in big delicious sweet potatoes.
The Fresh Start Farms farmers have begun to dig their sweet potatoes. They will put their sweet potatoes in the greenhouse for a week or more to cure them (sweeten them up with the extra heat of the greenhouse) and then you will find them in your CSA shares. The sweet potatoes that I have seen emerging from dark brown soil this week have ranged from almost-grocery-store-size to tubers the size of a hot dog with tapered ends. If you receive some unrecognizable tuber-like "things" with either orange or white skin in your CSA share, it is safe to assume that they are sweet potatoes. Even if they are sweet potatoes of the hot dog variety, they are delicious and edible, skin and all. Roasted them as you would a large sweet potato but for less time. Enjoy!