November Update

Today I thought I’d share a few of the things that are going on here this November. I’ve brought in a few harvests lately, most notably from our persimmon tree. I’ve picked all but a couple of fruits at the very top of the tree now, and we got a bit more than 25 pounds this year. That is a huge improvement over the dozen or so persimmons we got last year that weighed three pounds! This is the Nikita’s Gift variety, which is a cross between the native American persimmon and an Asian variety. They are astringent until soft, and have a few seeds along with the sweet orange pulp inside. They are ripening indoors now, and I’ve been freezing some of the pulp for later use. I plan to make a batch of persimmon cookies soon, and I have a recipe for persimmon bread I want to try as well.

Nikita’s Gift persimmons

I’ve also made cuttings from the collards and kale in the vegetable garden. I harvested some of the bigger collard leaves for fermenting and for a batch of collard soup. The fall greens got off to a rocky start as a skunk kept digging up the seedlings, but they eventually took off after I replanted and started using cayenne pepper powder as a repellent.

collard leaves

The kale I harvested went into a batch of Ribolita Soup we had for dinner this week. It featured fresh picked kale, frozen tomatoes from last year’s garden, and some cannellini beans I cooked up for the occasion. We put toasted sourdough bread on the bottom and on top, and it was a real tasty treat. I love the beans and greens combo, and this recipe ticks all the boxes for me.

Wild Garden Mix kale

Ribollita Soup

In non-gardening news, I have been doing a bit of woodworking lately. I finished a clock last week made from a piece of koa wood I brought back from a trip to Kona, HI a few years ago. My wife and each picked out a piece of koa, and I brought them home in my suitcase. I mean, doesn’t everyone bring home lumber from vacation? I applied a hand-rubbed oil and varnish finish, which I think really brought out the beauty of the koa wood. Koa only grows in Hawaii, and it comes in shades of tan as well as reddish-brown and dark brown.

clock made from koa wood

Now I have started working on my wife’s clock, which features a darker piece of koa with a lot of character!

koa wood for clock

I’ve been baking bread lately to go with soups and salads. My latest sourdough bake used 100% durum wheat flour (Semola Rimacinata). It didn’t get a lot of oven spring, and was a bit ‘vertically challenged’, but it had great flavor and made tasty croutons for the Ribollita soup. Soups are on the menu often here in the winter months, and with our home-baked bread the meal is complete.

sourdough bread

That’s an update of what’s been going on here in November, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!

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2023 Sweet Potato Review

The 2023 crop of sweet potatoes are all in now, and it looks like it was a good year for them here. I harvested a total of 76 pounds of them, compared to 64 pounds last year and 90 pounds in 2021 – all from the same varieties and the same number of plants(29). The yields last year suffered from a lack of rainfall, but this year it appears I did a better job of supplying supplemental water to the sweet potato bed throughout the growing season. I put a soaker hose down the length of the bed shortly after planting, and used it as-needed to give additional water.

sweet potato bed after planting

Sweet potatoes are one of our staple crops for storage, and are generally an easy to grow crop for us here. I plant them, keep them well watered, and dig them about four months after setting out the slips. Since I am still recovering from the after effects of my bout with pneumonia this summer, I broke the harvesting up into several sessions and also enlisted the help of my wife. She thoroughly enjoyed digging for buried treasure, and I promised I would ‘let’ her help me in the future! After harvesting them, I let the sweet potatoes cure in a warm place for several weeks before we begin eating them. The basement is the best place we have for curing, and I spread them out in a thin layer in cardboard boxes. As they cure, the skin toughens up and the starches convert to sugars. After curing, they will keep until next spring.

2023 sweet potatoes

The three best performing varieties for me this year were Purple, Beauregard and Murasaki. Purple produced 3.2 pounds per plant, while the other two varieties produced 2.6 pounds per plant. I can usually rely on Purple to do well for me here. I’ve been growing it for several years now, after Norma (Garden To Wok) shared some planting stock with me. Purple has purple skin and a deep purple, dry flesh. It is one of my favorites for making sweet potato hash, and it also does well with other varieties in Sweet Potatoes Pommes Anna.

Purple sweet potato

Sweet Potatoes Pommes Anna

Rio Zape and Sweet Potato Salad

Murasaki has become one of my favorite sweet potatoes for baking whole. Trader Joe’s used to sell it seasonally in fall, though I don’t know if they still do. It has a nutty, sweet flavor with a moist firm flesh, though it is a bit drier than most sweet potatoes. It usually makes small to medium sized roots for me, which are a great size for eating whole as a side dish.

baked Murasaki sweet potato from last year

typical Murasaki sweet potato

Beauregard is typically a dependable performer for us. It has moist, orange flesh and is much like most of the sweet potatoes you would find in the grocery stores here in the U.S. We like to bake them whole, or use them for a side dish like Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes. Last year Beauregard underperformed for us, so I am happy for the 13 pounds we got from 5 hills I planted this year.

Beauregard sweet potato

roasted Beauregard sweet potatoes with rosemary

The two underperforming varieties this year were Bonita and Korean Purple. I planted five hills of Bonita and they yielded right at 11 pounds, for an average of 2.2 pounds per plant. I planted six slips of Korean Purple and they yielded almost 13 pounds, for an average of 2.1 pounds per plant. These two varieties are quite variable in yield from year to year, and in 2022 Bonita and Korean Purple each yielded 2.8 pounds per plant, and along with Purple were the top performers. Bonita has a pinkish tan skin and moist white flesh, and is one of our favorites for baking whole.

Bonita sweet potatoes

Bonita sweet potatoes

Korean Purple has purple skin with a dry white flesh. It is truly one of my favorites for making hash, oven-baked fries and sweet potato chips. The sweet flesh crisps up well and caramelizes in the oven for a real taste treat. It makes a nice visual contrast with the all-purple Purple variety. The sizes usually range from small to quite large, and all are useful for us in the kitchen.

Korean Purple sweet potato

Purple and Korean Purple sweet potato chips

Purple and Korean Purple sweet potato chips

I’m not sure why the yields are so variable for our sweet potatoes, since I plant them the same way every year. I like to make a ridge of soil that is 8 to 10 inches high and about as wide before setting out the slips 15 to 16 inches apart. I don’t fertilize the soil before planting, since too much nitrogen makes for vigorous growth of the vines but thin, spindly roots. I also rotate all the crops to different beds every year, so perhaps the different locations and the differences in weather account for the variability. Regardless, we will have plenty to eat this year for sure!

getting ready to plant

For more information about growing sweet potatoes try these sources:

Growing Sweet Potatoes in Missouri

How To Grow Sweet Potatoes -University of Illinois

The Sweet Potato – Purdue University

Sweet Potato Growing Guide – Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Grow Sweet Potatoes – Even In The North (Mother Earth News)

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Harvest Monday October 30, 2023

It’s time for Harvest Monday, where gardeners from all over celebrate all things harvest related. Once again I’ve decided to take a break from the Harvest Monday posts for the winter months, until next February. Harvests are skimpy for many – including me, and I always enjoy taking a bit of downtime from gardening this time of year as do many other gardeners. I’ll be back with Harvest Monday on February 5th, 2024. Until then, I will post here about other garden news as it happens, and you can always follow my Facebook page and Instagram feed for harvests and other garden news. Thanks to all for reading and participating in this celebration of the harvest that has been going since 2009. Now, on to the harvests!

Early last week  I brought in a few more hot peppers, plus three sweet cornito peppers and an eggplant. It’s been a good year for the hot peppers and for eggplant, but not so much for the sweet peppers which suffered from weed issues when I was sick from pneumonia this summer. At the same time, my wife was dealing with the passing of her sister in Alabama, so things were on autopilot here for much of the summer. Weeds in the garden are no big deal in the larger scheme of things, and we still have had plenty to eat and process for later use.

late October harvest

Also last week I found a few more of the Andiamo tomatoes still on the vine. This tomato has done well here this year, and it has been a great addition to our paste tomato lineup.

Andiamo tomatoes

I made another harvest over the weekend to bring in as much as possible before tonight’s predicted freezing weather. I left a few persimmons on the tree to see how they do, but I cleaned out the peppers of all the fruits I wanted to use. I also found a few eggplants, Icicle and Annina, both of which have done well here this year.

last harvest of warm season crops

I have grown Aji Lemon Drop pepper before and it has done reasonably well. This year it has been late to ripen, though the plant is loaded with green peppers. I got a mix of both ripe and green ones, and I plan to make a hot sauce with them. I’m not sure if I will mix the green ones with the ripe ones, but I am hopeful some of the green ones will color up inside. We will see!

Aji Lemon Drop peppers

I’ve plucked 15 pounds of persimmons from our little tree so far. I say ‘plucked’ because they are fairly firmly attached, at least until they are dead ripe. These I harvested recently will need to sit and ripen until they are soft before eating them. I am hoping to use the pulp in bread or cookies once I have enough accumulated.

persimmons ripening indoors

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And please check out what everyone is harvesting!


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Harvest Monday October 23, 2023

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. The weather here has turned warm again, and the warm season veggies have responded by continuing to supply us with more harvests. I am surely happy to have tomatoes and eggplant this late in the season, and the peppers are an added bonus.

later October harvest

Benevento tomato is a red striped beefsteak type tomato that is a fairly new introduction from Artisan Seeds. It has extended shelf life both on the plant and after harvesting, and for me it has a great blend of sweet and acid flavors. It has done quite well this year, and both my wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed eating them.

Benevento tomato

I’ve gotten small harvests of our Thai Peppers all summer, but I plan on saving seeds from this batch of peppers. They are fiery hot, but after drying a little goes a long way to add heat to a dish. I got the seed from the instructor at a cooking class we took over 10 years ago. She was giving away seeds from her favorite Thai pepper, and I took some and have been growing them ever since.

Thai Bird peppers

And speaking of free seeds, I got a free packet of El Oro Ecuador peppers last year along with an order from Refining Fire Chiles. These are a C. baccatum variety with mild to medium heat that turn yellow-orange when ripe. It’s my second year growing them, though I didn’t get many last year and haven’t gotten very many so far this year. They are mild though, and I was able to eat one seeds and all without having to reach for the fire extinguisher!  There are plenty of green peppers still on the plant and I hope more will ripen before freezing weather arrives.

El Oro Ecuador peppers

The persimmons are slowly ripening, and I managed to climb a bit and pick another one last week. They do have seeds, but the taste is sweet and I am looking forward to getting enough of them later on to make persimmon cookies or bread.

Nikita’s Gift persimmon

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And please check out what everyone is harvesting!

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The Sweet Potato Dig Begins

This week I decided it was time to dig a few of the sweet potatoes and see how they were sizing up. I grew five varieties this year, the same varieties I grew last year: Korean Purple, Purple, Beauregard, Murasaki and Bonita. Our rainfall this summer has been spotty at best, so I have used a soaker hose several times to supply supplemental water to the sweet potato bed. Hopefully that will make for a better harvest than last year’s crop which suffered from the dry summer weather. Too much rain can be a problem though, as roots can split or develop cracks. That is highly unlikely to be a problem for us this year.

sweet potato poking up out of soil

I like to cut the vines off the sweet potatoes before I dig them. That lets me get them out of the way so I can see how the sweet potatoes are growing under the soil, and it makes harvesting easier.

cutting the vines

I generally use a digging fork to do the digging, though a shovel or spade will also get the job done. I brush away some of the soil around the hill to try and see where the roots have formed, then plunge the fork into the soil several inches away and under (hopefully) the roots to lift them up and loosen them. After that I work the sweet potatoes out with my hands, wiggling them around to loosen and scooping away the soil if necessary.

lifting the soil with digging fork

The first hill I dug was the all-purple Purple variety. I’ve been growing this one for ten years now, after one was given to me by fellow gardener and blogger Norma (Garden To Wok). I set out 7 slips of this variety this year, and the first one I dug had a root sticking up out of the soil. That is usually a sign that a big one is waiting, and I was not disappointed. That one sweet potato weighed right at three pounds!

Purple sweet potato

I also dug a few hills of Beauregard, which is the only orange-fleshed variety I am growing. I can usually depend on it to make big sweet potatoes here in our garden, and it looks like it has performed well this year.

Beauregard sweet potato

After harvest, I will move all the sweet potatoes down to the basement, which is the warmest spot we have to cure them. We’ll let them sit for a couple of weeks before we eat any of them. They tend to be starchy and not very sweet right after harvesting, and curing lets the starches begin to turn to sugars.

first harvest of sweet potatoes

Depending on the variety, sweet potatoes are generally ready to dig about 90 to 120 days after planting the slips. I set outs our on June 10th this year, so we are around the 130 day mark and all of them should be ready. To see how I planted them, you can read: Planting Sweet Potatoes. They definitely need to be dug before frosts or freezing weather arrives. There is no frost in our 7-day weather forecast though, so I plan to get the rest of them dug by early next week.

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