The Last Sweet Bits of Summer

By on 16 October, 2013 in Cooking, Food, Heather Coleman with 0 Comments

Fall is really here! Unfortunately I have been on self imposed indoor restriction, working on resurfacing, patching and painting walls in the dining room. The dining room that I mentioned in last month’s blog post is finally, as of yesterday, ready to paint (I actually cheated and painted a bit to test the color, even though I was still waiting for a few spots to dry). Since this month has been more of the same in the world of home renovation, I figured that waxing poetic on the trials of patching and smoothing 70-something-year-old walls again this month might be a bit boring.

Instead, I have decided to share something much more fitting to this gorgeous weather — sweet potatoes! Last fall, a couple of my friends from Georgia harvested over 200 pounds of sweet potatoes that they had planted in regular flower beds in their front yard. They enjoyed the gorgeous vines all summer, and then dug the fading vines in the fall and enjoyed sweet potatoes for months. This year, a local friend decided to try her hand at square foot gardening, and planted one of her 4×4 raised beds with sweet potatoes, 15 onions and 4 elephant garlic plants. She dug them a couple of weeks ago, and was shocked to find that her little 4×4 bed had yielded a bit over 60 pounds of sweet potatoes!

Interplanted with basil and purple onions

The potatoes have spent the last couple of weeks curing in a warm, damp environment. 80 degrees and about 85 percent humidity is perfect. Potatoes can be eaten in as little as ten days, but aren’t considered fully cured and suitable for baking until they have been out of the ground for 6-8 weeks.

We grew these!

Today a couple of my friends decided to have a little picnic for my upcoming birthday at Bellinger Hills park — kids, adults, dogs, a picnic, blankets, and a beautiful day made for the perfect relaxing afternoon. My friend brought the only watermelon that her little garden produced, and a delicious, unexpected roasted sweet potato, corn, and black bean salad. It was a wonderful blend of summer and fall, perfect for the afternoon.

Roasted Sweet Potato Southwestern Salad

You will need

  • 4 sweet potatoes, cut into cubes and roasted
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 med/large onion
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 medium or 2 small peppers (red or green)
  • 1 jalapeno (or more if you like your food to have a little kick!)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 limes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2) Wash, peel and chop sweet potatoes. Toss in olive oil and then spread in a single layer on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast until the potatoes are tender and the edges start to brown, turning them a couple of times to ensure even browning.  Approximately 30-45 minutes.
3) For the corn, you can either leave it in the husks and roast alongside the sweet potatoes, boil it until just tender, or cut it off of the cob and pan roast it (this method works best if you have to use frozen corn).
4) Chop the onion and bell peppers, mix together, along with the drained beans, cilantro and roasted corn.
5) Scoop and chop the avocados, set aside.
6) Toss the garlic, jalapenos, and lime juice into the food processor and pulse until blended. Add enough olive oil to thin down into a dressing.
7) Combine the bean mix with dressing, sweet potatoes and avocado, mixing gently. If you get too thourogh you will end up with mashed sweet potatoes so be careful!
8) Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper, and more lime if needed. Cumin would also be a great addition.
9) Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the flavors combine, or up to 2 days.

The finished salad!

I hope that you enjoy this salad as much as we all did! Next year I am definitely looking into growing sweet potatoes. My front yard receives a ton of sunlight, and my backyard very little, so I always think that I can’t really grow vegetables, but sweet potatoes are beautiful plants and I think they would look great out front. Or maybe I will try grow bags, bushel baskets, or even a trash can in the backyard– all of them are compact enough that they would work in my very very limited sunny spot. Apparently all it takes is an organic sweet potato and a little work to create your own beautiful starts.

Heather Coleman is a freelance writer and part-time DIY’er who mostly manages to fit her projects in around her family and her volunteer work. She lives with her husband, two boys and two pets in Midtown. She is on Google+, Linked In, Twitter and Pinterest.

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