October 29, 2018

Sweet Potato Harvest - The Nancy Halls

While Dan's been working on the pantry roof, I've been harvesting sweet potatoes. The mornings getting chillier and chillier and I need to get them dug before first frost. I planted two kinds this year, Vardamans and Nancy Halls. I started with the Nancy Halls.


Nancy Hall sweet potatoes are an heirloom variety and this is my first year to grow them. I planted two rows, which quickly grew to look like one huge bed. The first step was to pull the vines and feed those to the goats. Then I raked back the mulch, 


and the hunt is on.


This variety sprawls both above ground and below. I found the largest sweets directly under the vines, but underground runners went everywhere. I found lots of medium and small ones well beyond the rows where they were planted, even down in the subsoil. That meant they were more time consuming to find and dig than my bush-type Vardamans.

The Nancy Halls aren't a familiar bright sweet potato orange but are more mellow in color.


Curious marbled interior

The real question was, how would they taste? I haven't found all varieties of sweet potatoes to be equally delicious, so I was curious about this rare old variety.

The first taste test was oven baked sweet potato fries.

Nancy Hall oven fries made with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

We had these with burgers and thought them quite good. The next night I served them baked.

Baked Nancy Hall with butter and served with ham and Pasta Cheesy.

The kitchen smelled like a bakery while they were in the oven! They are a pretty golden yellow color when baked and have a dry flaky texture. The flavor was excellent!

Last test - sweet potato pie!


I like sweet potato pie better than pumpkin (or cushaw), so this was an important test. I had trouble, though, because the flesh was so dry that it was hard to process for pie filling. For that I use baked or steamed sweet potatoes and run them through my Foley food mill. But the Nancy Halls weren't creamy enough to process well, and without changing the recipe the filling was too thick to stir. I added milk to give it a more pourable consistency. After all that I thought the pie was just okay. 

Even so, the verdict is that these are a keeper, and I'll keep a couple of nice ones to sprout next year. They make plentiful vines to feed the goats and are excellent baked. For pies, I'll continue to use my Vardamans.

25 comments:

Gorges Smythe said...

Well done!

Judy said...

I have never had Nancy Halls, I will have to be on the look-out for them. I've grown Vardamans and Beauregards. Growth habits seemed to vary from year-to-year because one year we had 4 monster potatoes just under where we planted the vines and then other years medium-size potatoes spread all over the patch like your Nancy Halls.

Goatldi said...

Looks yummy all around!

Leigh said...

Gorges, thanks!

Judy, now you've made me curious about what they'll do next year!

Goatldi, indeed!

Kristina said...

We love sweet potatoes, and love sweet potato pie too. It all looks so good.

Unknown said...

Just a thought...a few years ago, we bought two of those blue toddler plastic pools (about a foot deep) and three Rubbermaid tubs, filled them with a mix of garden soil, potting soil and a bit of rough compost, and planted sweet potato slips in them. Watered as necessary (we're in SW Virginia, so not real often), and just let them grow in that unused corner. We had munched around them with cardboard and leaves, so no problems there. Harvested 105 pounds of sweets a few weeks ago. And had all our rows available for other stuff. You might want to try this!

Leigh said...

Kristina, and they're healthy too!

Unknown, that's a very good idea! Definitely worth experimenting with.

Ed said...

I've eaten lots of things but I've never had the opportunity to eat a sweet potato pie. Someday.

Mark Shaw said...

I’ve never had sweet potato pie either it’s not common in the UK is it a desert ??

wyomingheart said...

Hello Leigh, I was wondering if you had ever tried to use applesauce in with the drier sweet potatoes when you make your pie. I often use applesauce in pies when I have dry squash years. Just a thought, and thanks for showing a new type of sweet potato. I am having a learning curve switching from south Florida to this ridge country Appalachian region, and trying a new potato next year will hopefully be more successful than this year.

Leigh said...

Ed, you need to try it at least once in your life!

Mark, do they grow sweet potatoes in the UK? In Europe? I don't know! They are similar to yams, but I don't know where those grow either. Yes, it's a sweet dessert; very tasty!

Wyomingheart, I never would have thought to try applesauce, but that's a good idea. I really like it in cakes because they stay moist longer with applesauce in them. I imagine that Appalachia is a huge switch from southern Florida! I found it took several years of experimentation to find out what grows the best here, and I'm still learning. I haven't had good success with white potatoes, which is a shame because they are an excellent starch to have on hand.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Looks good Leigh. I am only familiar with the very orange ones you get at the grocery store (which are good in and of themselves).

Sweet potato fries are very much a hit and miss for me. Not sure why - maybe different seasonings?

Leigh said...

TB, at the risk of sounding snobbish, I have to say that the only sweet potato fries I like are my recipe. I think it's because all the others I've had have sugar added. IMO, sweet potatoes do not need sugar! The pie does call for honey, and I've substituted sugar, but that's okay because it's a dessert, and desserts are supposed to be sweet. But sugar on fries is kinda yucky, I think.

Mark Shaw said...

I think most of the sweet potato’s in the UK are imported. You can grow them here but not many people do. They are ready available in supermarkets we have the ones that have redskins and orange flesh if that makes sense. I will try growing them when we get to Bulgaria.

Leigh said...

Mark, I can tell you that sweet potatoes like a long growing season. Mine have been growing about 5 months. That yielded the largest ones. The smaller ones grew from the runners and so haven't had as long to develop. The ones you describe are probably the most common in our supermarkets too, although there are a lot of nice, less well known varieties. If you can get your supermarket sweets to sprout, then you can grow your own slips to plant.

Sam I Am...... said...

thank you for so much great info on sweet potatoes! I had no idea and have never grown them but I love them. So good to try them in different ways as you proved that some are good for one thing but maybe not another. I will keep both those names in mind. Who doesn't love the excitement of digging up potatoes?

Leigh said...

Sam, sweet potatoes are very easy to grow. It's interesting that there are so many different varieties and that they are so different! I think Beauregards are one of the most common, but I liked the Vardamans better so that's been my standard sweet. I had to try the Nancy Halls, however, and I'm glad I did!

Tewshooz said...

I would love to be able to grow sweet potatoes in our climate, but with a growing season of only 60 days it is impossible. Just bought some at the store and pressure cooked them in my Instant Pot. 7 minutes high pressure and 10 min natural release and they get totally soft and fork mushable. I peel and quarter like regular russet potatoes. One of my favorite vegetables.

Leigh said...

Tewshooz, yes, a short growing season wouldn't yield very many. I like your idea of pressure cooking. I may try that in my old-fashioned pressure cooker. Also thinking that solar cooking might be the way to go. Everything cooks moistly in my solar oven.

Susan said...

Those are beautiful sweet potatoes! I think sweet potato fries are my favorite use of them!

Rain said...

Happy Halloween Leigh!!! :)
Oh, I LOVE when the house smells like a bakery!! Actually today Alex said the house smelled like a diner. Which is a great compliment because I was making a great Halloween feast! :) Sweet potato pie looks really good. I never actually tried that. Always stuck to the punkins :) I should try it one day though!

Leigh said...

Susan thanks! You know, sweet potato fries didn't sound all that good to me until I actually made some. Love them with salt, pepper, and garlic!

Rain, the way you cook, I imagine you and Alex have had a wonderful day! You need to try sweet potato pie at least once! I think you'll like it. :)

M.K. said...

They look delicious. We didn't do sweet potatoes this year, but I will do them again next year.

Leigh said...

M.K. I try sweet potatoes every year but seems we had several years in a row with piddly harvest. I like feeding them to the goats so I'm delighted they did so well this year!

Chris said...

My favourite sweet potato is the purple skinned, white fleshed, Japanese variety. It's able to cope better with heat and cold variations, than the orange flesh varieties. The qualities you describe in the Nancy Hall, appear similar to my favourite Japanese sweet potato. I'd keep growing it too, if it did well in most areas.