October 15, 2010

Sweet Potato Disappointment

I showed you a photo of our sweet potatoes after we harvested them at the end of September.

To cure them, I carefully moved them to our screened in front porch, which has served more as an area to dry and cure our harvest than anything else. I laid them out on an old sheet, and was careful to turn them frequently. I was very dismayed then, to see that some of them started to look like this...

I believe this is black rot. Black rot is caused by a fungus which as far as I understand, is passed via stems and roots from an infected plant. It can remain in the soil after infected plants have grown there, and pass the disease to the next crop. Since my garden site has (as far as I know) never grown food crops, I have to think that the slips I ordered were already infected before they were shipped.

This is disappointing for a several reasons. It's disappointing because it means I'll lose some of my crop. It's disappointing because I'll have to buy slips again next year, when I was hoping to be sweet potato self-sufficient by then. Then too, it's disappointing because infected sweet potatoes don't store well, so I won't have homegrowns for one of our traditional Christmas dishes, baked sweet potatoes slathered with cinnamon butter.

Some of them were too far gone and had to be discarded. Some had cut-outable spots, but I was suspicious of all the rest. If they were infected as well, storage wouldn't help them. What to do.  I finally decided to salvage what I could by canning the good ones. I've canned pumpkin before, but never sweet potatoes. I do love the convenience of canned foods, so in that sense I'll welcome the addition to my pantry.

This turned out to be easier than I thought. For some reason I was thinking I needed to puree them for canning, but the USDA says home canning sweet potato puree isn't safe. Chunks are definitely easier though, than having to run it all through the food mill.

I steamed large pieces just long enough to loosen the skin, which was then peeled off. I used a light sugar syrup instead of plain water (11 cups of water with 1.25 cups of sugar.) The quarts were processed for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

I'll have to see how well we like them. I think they look pretty good and 30 pounds of sweet potatoes gave me 13 quarts, plus a couple of pies (I like sweet potato pie better than pumpkin pie), and a few to try to store. Besides pies, I'm not sure how else to use them because I don't like the traditonal sweet potato with marshmallow casserole. Maybe muffins? Pancakes? Any suggestions?


  1. Yuck, that's terrible. How long does the disease stay in the soil? Good thinking on the canning. At least you'll get something from all the effort.

  2. I always learn so much from you. I've never thought of canning SP's. They do look good though. Lets us know how they work out for you baking those pies.

  3. That is certainly disappointing. Sweet potatoes aren't really a traditional food here. Can't say I've ever had sweet potato casserole with or without marshmallows.. marshmallows on it just seems wrong to me. I do make sweet potato oven fries once in a while. They're pretty good that way, but too sweet for regular consumption.

  4. Oh no! Man, it has been a hard year in the garden. As some point I posted on Please Be Edible about some sweet potato fries that had a chili coating. They were tasty! The other good recipe I have for them is essentially a dessert (no marshmallows) with pecans. It's sweet though!

  5. That was a good save by canning the sweet potatoes. Everyone here likes sweet potato fries. I like a recipe called Gypsy Soup by Mollie Katzen of Moosewood fame. It is vegetarian with chickpeas & other good veggies.
    I am hoping for sweet potatoes to get down to .39 # so we can stock up for the winter.

  6. I have seen recipes that call for a mixture of mashed root veggies like "regular" and sweet potato together... I think that would be yummy.

    I have a sweet potato minestrone recipe that is delicious. I need to see if I can find it now.

  7. Oh drat and dang. One more unexpected, un-needed thing to deal with. Does it seem to you that an unusual number of gardeners have had one whole heck of a lot of unusual things to deal with this year? From weird temperatures and precipitation to more damaging bugs, insects and funguses. (Fungi?)

    What about pureeing the canned sweet potatoes and using them in any recipe calling for pumpkin? Pumpkin Bars? Pumpkin Bread? Pumpkin Cookies?

  8. Heather, that's a good question. I know they say to rotate crops and that nothing else seems to be effected by it. Evidently there aren't any resistant strains either. Or at least the most resistant are the least flavorful.

    Tami, I also thought about freezing, but I'm pretty much out of room in my freezer. I have to say too, that the pie was fantastic!

    Nina, they seems to be a traditional food in the south, I reckon because they require a long growing season. The marshmallows are pretty yucky, I think. They make the whole thing too sweet, but it's a popular dish at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    Maggie, I'll have to go search your blog for that fries recipe. Several folks are mentioning sweet potato fries, which I've never tried. When looking for pie recipes, I found quite a few for sweet potato pecan pie, but Dan isn't too keen on nuts. We do have pecans though, which I really like.

    Michelle, I couldn't let them go to waste! I think there are some Moosewood recipes online, I'll have to see if I can find them again. I'd like to try them with chickpeas.

    Heather, if you find that soup recipe, let me know! Your comment reminds me that somewhere I have my great-grandmother's chicken stew recipe. It called for sweet potatoes and turnips. I used to love it. Sweet potatoes are good in a roasted mixed roots too.

    Mama Pea, I've noticed that, about all the gardening problems folks around the internet have been having. I think you're right about substituting sweet potato for pumpkin. In fact, the pie recipe I tried tonight was actually a pumpkin honey pie recipe, and man was it ever good with sweet potato! I like the idea of bars and cookies too. :)

  9. here we have sweet potatoes two ways...from the can I sprinkle them with brown sugar and butter and then just bake them in the syrup. That's the way DH & DD love them (I HATE THEM THAT WAY!) I also bake them whole and they put butter & brown sugar on them at the table.

    Me I like Sweet potato fries... cut like french fries, drizzle with oil & garlic salt. Then bake in the oven or on the grill. YUM!

    DH doesn't like the marshmallow casserole either.

    I have a recipe for pumpkin soup that I really like...it's very savory. I bet there are sweet potato soup recipes, sweet or savory out there as well.

  10. Oh how awful! But canning them was a good idea. We used to make a sweet potato bread like pumpkin bread with less spices and dried cranberries to sell at the farmers market (we used to sell baked goods at the farmers market) and it sold very well. It was really good.

  11. Renee, I must try some fries then, because that seems to be the top recommendation in all the comments. My son likes sweet potatoes bakes with butter and brown sugar too, something he first had at university. I've never tried it though, because I love my cinnamon butter (and so does DH).

    Alla, sweet potato bread with cranberries sounds really good. I like pumpkin bread with cranberries, but I have fewer pumpkins than sweet potatoes!

  12. Well that's a bummer Leigh, but the canning looks like it saved the day, or at least a whole heap o sweets!
    No recipes here, but the family prefers pecans to marshmallow in casserole. Wonder if some can be mixed with batter for SP pancakes. Might be awfully good, or then again, might be pretty weird. :)

  13. Your tale of sweet potatoes going bad is the part we don't hear often but it's common. I am very impressed with your save..by canning them! That is very good and encouraging! We move our crops all around and still have issues. Do you get the tomato blight? Our crop is almost all a loss this year. After twenty years of growing a garden there has never been an ideal year...and that is why we plant more than we need! :) The goats and chickens get the throw outs. At least it's food the critters.

  14. Theresa, we like pumpkin pancakes, so I'd be willing to try sweet potato pancakes too. I wish Dan liked nuts better. I love the sound of a sweet potato / pecan casserole. Crunchy topping, right?

    Flower, I think most of us want to be upbeat and positive in our blogging. I've been trying to take a more realistic approach, because its the problems and problem solving that are more helpful to others. I always appreciate when someone tells about gardening challenges, because often I'm wondering about something similar and it's helpful to know if someone tried something that either worked or didn't work. Makes it seem less lonely out here!

    Yes, we get blight, and I thought that's what wiped out my tomatoes this summer, but I'm realizing that what we actually had was tomato anthracnose. My peppers had it too. Well, there may have been a touch of blight too, but the other was a confirmed problem. Fortunately, like you, I planted more than I would have needed if they were all healthy! That was the only reason I got enough sauce. I will have to overplant again next year, and hope to figure out how to help them.

  15. Leigh, I'm so sorry about the SP issue! I love SP now that I'm adult and my tastes have matured, I used to hate them when I was a kid. I remember my older sister once made me SP pancakes when I was young. Her family loved them. I love SP fries, they are the best. Recently I was down in GA and had a SP casserole which was baked SP with some brown sugar and crispy baked pecans on top. It didn't have too much brown sugar, but it was very good and not overly sweet. Good luck finding recipes!

  16. Leigh, I've nominated you for a Day in the Slow life meme. Come on over to my blog and check it out.

  17. Aw, that is awful. I've never heard of canned sweet potatoes before. That is pretty neat. We didn't get enough sweet potatoes that we will need to worry preserving (only a little sack full) but next year I hope to have more.

  18. At least it isn't a complete loss. All those canned sweet potatoes will be good this winter in soups and just cook for eating.

    I assume you are going to plant them in a different spot next year.

  19. Lynn, thanks. SP casserole with pecans seems to be the second most mentioned favorite after the fries. I may try to grind the pecans into meal and try that. I don't think Dan would object to that. At least I hope not!

    Heather, thanks! As you've seen, I already have my A Day in the Slow Life post up!

    Robin, I'd hoped to be able to store mine raw, in the pantry. I found they kept very well last winter, by just wrapping them individually in newspaper. Not a one went bad.

    Benita, yes to planting the someplace different. The discouraging thing about diseases is that there doesn't seem to be a cure for any of them. Insects can be sprayed but disease isn't so easy to treat.

  20. I interchange sweet potato, butternut squash and pie pumpkins all the time in cooking. I just use less sugar in dessert recipes when I use squash or sweet potato instead of pumpkin. They are so much sweeter than pumpkin. Try the Gypsy soup recipe in the first Moosewood cookbook. It is my family's all time favorite soup. I've made it with butternut squash or sweet potato, but I prefer sweet potato as it holds its shape better when cooked in soup. We also love sweet potato sliced thinly like potato chips then lightly coated in oil and seasoned how ever you like (cajun seasoning is our all time favorite) Spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 425 degree oven about 10 min. Then flip them over once and put back in the oven a few more minutes. They burn quickly so watch closely and pull off any that are starting to burn. These get nice and crisp like a potato chip if they are sliced thin enough. They are still good with some browned edges, but not burned black. I stay in the kitchen while I'm making these as the perfection to burned stage is only a couple of minutes apart.

  21. Anonymous, thank you for the comment and the suggestions! It's funny because I had recently mentioned pumpkin soup to DH, who looked at me like "yuk." I think the key though, is always in the recipe. I googled the gypsy soup and found it online. I agree about the sweetness and the sugar, though DH thought the SP pie just right. This year I have only 2 pumpkins, but I grew buttercup squash instead of butternut. They are very sweet! I have lots of them. Thank you too for the instructions on the SP chips. I've tried zucchini chips in my dehydrator, similar to what you're describing, but I think the oven would work better. Will have to try with the SPs.

  22. We eat a lot of sweet potatoes. I like them baked, then split with butter; boiled & then mashed; and in soup -- most often as a beef & root vegetable soup (chuck roast, tomatoes, onion, carrots, turnips, rutabaga, parsnips - not too many, sweet potatoes and sometimes white potatoes). I'm not sure how any of these would work with your canned sweet potatoes, though.

    Oh, you can put mashed sweet potatoes into biscuit dough & get pretty orange biscuits (or pot pie lids).

  23. Cynthia, I hadn't thought of SP biscuits, good idea! Now you've got me wondering about SP cookies too. I think they'd be great in soups and stews. I'm thinking I could add the canned ones at the last, and cook just long enough to heat up. They really are good with other veggies.

  24. Leigh, I've used sweet potatoes as if they were white potatoes..I use my hand beaters , I add butter (lots of it), salt and evaporated milk and cream them like I would white potatoes ..(sometimes a pinch of sugar doesn't hurt). They are delicious like that also.

  25. Ginny, I will definitely have to try that. We have way more sweets than whites this year so I have to do something!


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