Harvest of the Month: Sweet Potatoes

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Sweet potatoes are the November Harvest of the Month.

November is the time of final harvests, putting the garden to bed for the winter, and cooking warm, comforting foods to keep out the chill. This month, we celebrate sweet potatoes, one of the last crops to come out of the garden, and a food that can be stored in a cool, dark place (like a garage or pantry) through most of the winter.

Sweet potatoes are an incredibly interesting plant to grow in the garden. They grow from slips, the shoots that are cultivated from a mature sweet potato. Some gardeners grow slips just by placing a sweet potato in water, and then removing the resulting shoot for planting. Once you plant the slips, they produce beautiful, lush vines that fill up the garden bed. Sweet potatoes need at least four months of warm weather to grow, and it is well worth the wait. The real fun comes when you dig up the sweet potatoes, often to find huge, interestingly shaped orange roots hiding under the ground.

A star in the kitchen and on the table, the sweet potato can be enjoyed in many delicious ways: roasted whole and served as a side to any meal, cut up to make oven fries, sautéd with onion and pepper for hash, or baked with apples and cinnamon for desert. This month we are serving up sweet potato and black bean salad to students at all seven of the public schools on the Island for our Harvest of the Month taste test. Try making it at home:

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad recipe by Robin Forte

2 large sweet potatoes, (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 can black beans drained and rinsed
1/3 cup olive oil
4 Tbs. fresh lime juice, plus the zest
1 large red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3 Tbs. honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350. Toss cubed sweet potatoes with 2 Tbs. olive oil. Roast in the oven until tender, 10-15 minutes. Cool. In a large bowl combine the cooled, cooked sweet potato, red pepper, cilantro and black beans. In a small bowl combine lime juice, lime zest, honey and remaining olive oil. Add the honey-lime dressing to the sweet potato mixture plus salt and pepper to taste.