- C. W. Cameron For the AJC
When Greg Hutchins of Heritage Farm in Carroll County finds a vegetable he likes, he sticks with it. Collards? He grows the varieties Vates and Georgia because he knows he can depend on them to produce sweet, tender greens.
For sweet potatoes, he grows Beauregard. “I planted my first garden in 1980 when I was 16 years old. I started planting sweet potatoes about 10 years later and went with Beauregard. I haven’t grown any other kind in all these years. My friends grow other varieties, so if I want something different, I can get it from them.”
Beauregard is a variety developed in the late 1980s by the folks at Louisiana State University. The flesh is deep orange and delicious and it’s a potato that stores really well. You’ll find Hutchins selling his sweet potatoes at the Saturday morning Roswell Farmers Market which ends this month, and the Peachtree Road, Brookhaven and Sandy Springs farmers markets.
He also sells year-round through his website at heritagefarm.locallygrown.net.
Hutchins put in 500 sweet potato slips this year. He buys his certified organic slips from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine.
Sweet potatoes are planted from slips, not seed. If you have a sweet potato around for a while, sometimes it will start sending up shoots. Those shoots are also called slips. They’re twisted off the potatoes and the shoots are planted.
Sweet potatoes spend a lot of time in the ground. Hutchins planted his slips in the fields in early May and by late September he was able to begin harvesting.
“We do what we call a test dig. We dig around a couple vines to see what size potatoes we have. By late September we were ready to bush hog the patch and pull up all the sweet potatoes.”
He lets the potatoes sit about two weeks before he begins to sell them. That’s called “curing” the potatoes and they’ll keep better if they’ve been treated this way. At home, he suggests his customers keep their sweet potatoes in a dry place below 70 degrees.
“Sweet potatoes will keep really well at 50 to 60 degrees, but not many people have a place that cool. We keep ours in the basement stored in one layer in ventilated plastic boxes. They do fine.”
As for how he enjoys his sweet potatoes, he says there’s not a way he won’t eat them.
“My favorite is the sweet potato soufflé we do at Thanksgiving. But I like them baked in a cast-iron skillet, skin on. Just split them open and eat them skin and all. That’s how my grandma used to serve them.”
Taqueria del Sol’s Mexican-Style Spicy Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Eddie Hernandez sent us this recipe that’s a nice twist on the usual sweeter treatments of sweet potatoes. The addition of basil as a garnish is a surprise and it’s delicious.