Usually our summers are hot, dry and promote a long growing season for sweet potatoes. If you want to grow your own “slips” January is the time to start. Winter Squash is everyone’s favorite too. It is time to pull them out from under your beds like Grandma did, and start eating.
If your winter squash was removed from the garden beds before hard frosts and you cut the stem at least two inches up they should be hearty and hale. Sometimes in your weekly inspections you may notice “soft spots” appearing. We want to cook these first after cutting out the soft spots. You will want to use a sturdy knife, a strong arm and set the squash where it will not slip. Insert the knife up to the hilt in the squash and saw it down reaching a point where you can break it in two pieces. Great big squash like the Blue Hubbard I cut across the middle. Scoop out the seeds, clean them and let them dry. Save the seeds for next season’s planting. If there is a hint of mould- wash in a bleach solution and re-dry. Mice love seeds, so use a glass-canning jar for storage. Label the seed.
You can make a pie of the squash, and the use of an “Squeezo” type kitchen tool with a pumpkin strainer will remove any “strings”. For my style, is to bake big wide slices of the squash, adding butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Often forgot is the Winter Soup that will warm everyone, and they will ask for more.
1 medium onion
3 TB butter
1 tomato, peeled and chopped
1 to 2-tsp hot pepper (optional)
1 clove garlic
2 lbs winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch cubes. (Approx. 4 cups.)
4 cups beef stock or water
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
Salt-pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, sauté onion in butter. Add tomatoes, pepper and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add squash and seasonings. Bring to a boil and simmer for twenty minutes. Serve with a parsley garnish, which strengthens the heart.
Kiss the cook.
I did not have any sweet potatoes growing this summer so I went to the local “health Food” store (Eats in Blacksburg) and bought some sweets. These are expressly organic and NOT coated with a growth regulator, which inhibits “slips” from sprouting. The super clean looking ones in the big markets will not sprout for me. Of course in all the garden catalogs you are offered an excellent variety of slips for next June.
To grow your own slips requires heat and moisture. I use a Styrofoam container much like you see for carrying food to a picnic. I place clean play sand in, maybe a ¼ full. I add water till the sand is mushy. I do think chlorinated water is best to reduce rot since it is difficult for many people to keep the seed-sweets warm enough. I place the Styrofoam container over a heat mat (see early garden articles on heat mats). Place a glass panel over the box to let in light, which in this terrarium your sweets will propagate.
Now take your organic sweets and cut in half through the middle. Place them big side down ½ way into the sand with the pointy sprouting end up. Two large sweets will produce 40 to 100 slips. When the slips are about 6” long, break them off the stub and transplant to a mason jar of gallon size. Add water to fill ¾ full. Add a drop of fish emulsion fertilizer, or fish water from your fish tank. Place the slips in the jar in a very warm location, perhaps near a windowsill ledge for light and having a heater next to it. If you have a greenhouse you can place the jar between the heat mats.
As the slips grow you may have a jungle and it is becoming unmanageable. Just snip the vines in half. Grow twice as many as you think you will need.
When it is warm in June and going to stay that way place your slips in a sunny, sandy, LOW nitrogen soil. Avoid composts etc as that promotes vines and no roots. Look for a PH of 6.5 for an ideal.
Harvest before the first frost. Store your sweets wrapped in newspaper in flats in a warm dry location.
Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie
9” unbaked pie shell
2 lbs sweet potatoes
1 cup of homegrown honey
2 eggs slightly beaten. From the hen house of course.
1 ½ cups whole milk
3TB melted butter
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 TB lemon juice
Make the pie shell to your own recipe. Cook the sweet potatoes until tender in a pot or steamer. Peel. Mix 2 cups of sweet potatoes, honey, eggs, milk and butter. Add spices, lemon rind and juice. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for approx. 1 hour, or until filling is lightly browned and set.
Kiss the cook.
Use this as a lure after the winter soup to get hubby to bring in more firewood.
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COPYRIGHT: 2008, Back2theLand, Mark Steel