Sweet Potatoes and Cassava

 The first frost came through over the weekend and froze out the sweet potatoes.  We were hesitating to dig them up this year, because we always seem to do it too soon and they are teensy.  But once the tops were frost-killed, I figured I’d better get them out of the ground.

The size of the harvest surprised me, especially the very large ones.  I guess they liked the compost beds.  I roasted some for dinner and they are very starchy and sweet.  They seem somehow richer than “boughten” sweet potatoes from the store.  I wish I could plant twice as many next year, they are so good.  We were trying to estimate how much it would have cost for us to buy that many organic sweet potatoes.  A lot.  Interesting to put a monetary value on such a thing, but at the same time it makes you realize just how much wealth comes out of the earth.  Sweet-and-starchy gold.

The hoops and plastic were effective to keep everything from freezing, but we have realized we will need a bunch more hoops to keep the plastic from sagging.
  It became very windy when the cold front came through and the tallest cassava plant was knocked over.

We went ahead and dug the roots the rest of the way (Ethan did, actually.  I was digging the sweet potatoes).  They were huge.  This is just one.

Then we chopped all the stalks down to save them for next year.  You plant sections of the stalk to get new plants.  I’m swathing them in old feed bags to keep them from drying out (it worked ok last year).  The stalks are sensitive to cold and will be killed in a frost.  In the picture above, you can see the roots growing out from the piece of stem I’d planted in the spring.

Last year we got excited just before the first frost and dug up all four of our cassava plants.  The roots were enormous, and the big kids discovered that they were not super excited to eat lots of cassava all of a sudden, so the roots languished on the porch for awhile.  Unfortunately they molded up very quickly, and lots of them had to be composted.  It seemed like such a horrible waste.  I didn’t know they spoiled so quickly.  They wax them in the stores to keep them fresh longer (well not rotten, at least, which is what passes for “fresh” these days).

Several people have told me about a labor-intensive way to save them that involves digging, peeling, blanching and freezing the roots.  I just don’t have that much time.  There’s a lot of cassava out there.  We are trying out what they supposedly do in other places where most people don’t have freezers – cutting the stalks and leaving the roots in the ground, insulated with hay.  We’ll see.  At the very least they will sprout again in the spring.

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