Thursday, May 19, 2011

Orange Sweet Potatoes

Our family ate a lot of sweet potatoes when I was a kid. Along with Irish potatoes, Ipomoea batatas was a main garden staple. Truth is, I kind got sick of them and never grew any after I left home.

However, through the years, I've rediscovered a new fondness for the root crop, especially the orange varieties. The sweet potato is poor man's food, and Asia grows its share. However, many are white flesh varieties which I find a bit bland.

Over the past year, the humble sweet potato has gotten some very favorable press. Last Thanksgiving, New York Times Op-Ed Columnist, Nicolas Kristof, wrote a glowing piece about the role of orange sweet potatoes specially bred to help fight hunger in Africa ( Orange sweet potatoes are packed with beta carotene, a natural source of vitamin A, much needed by the human body.

Fortunately, orange sweet potatoes are easy to grow in our part of tropical Asia.

In early December 2010, I bought sack of orange tuberous sweet potato roots from a local market (not easy to find) and planted them in one of our garden beds. We ended up with a ton of slips. I then transplanted some of these slips into four short rows around New Year and waited until mid-April to begin digging. I was delighted to find well-formed, tasty roots.

Friends and neighbors got their share. In fact, we only had enough left over for one meal. Ellen sliced the tubers, added seasoning and baked them until they began to brown. Delicious.

Now, the locally-adapted orange sweet potato variety is growing in the demonstration garden at the ECHO Asia office. Interested persons who drop by the office can picked up a few slips to take home with them.

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