My Grandmother always cured her freshly dug sweet potatoes by leaving them spread out in the sun for a few days before storing them in a spare room of the house in a bushel basket. This made them sweet. It also helped the potatoes heal any nicks made in the skins while digging them so they did not rot in storage. She handled them gently so as not to bruise them. We never dug sweet potatoes until the last week before a killing frost. If frost caught us unaware, we would rip the vines off the next morning before they "ruined" the crop. The potatoes would be ok in the ground for a day or two until we got them dug, but we didn't want them to chill too much. If we got to the vines before frost, we threw them to the cows or goats. They always thought it was candy, the way they attacked and devoured them. Sometimes we would dry them for winter fodder, but it takes a while to dry sweet potato vines, they have a high moisture content and the vines are thick.
My favorite thing growing up was her famous sweet potato bread which was actually a pie without the crust, which she made in a cast iron pan in the oven. 3 medium sweet potatoes, 1 cup sugar, 3 eggs, a little milk or cream, 2 tbsp. flour. I think she used a little bit of ginger to flavor it, and perhaps cinnamon also. When I make it today, I add the ginger and cinnamon and use organic sugar and goat milk. Mine is never as good as hers, but she was a fabulous cook and put a lot of her energy into her food. Nothing can compare. The cast iron pan made the outside browned and crispy, adding greatly to the flavor. She always said it was even better when she was still using the wood stove oven to bake in.
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Sweet potatoes were the mainstay of my diet when I lived in the South. Something I learned when living overseas that a lot of people don't know about them is that people, as well as livestock, can eat the greens. Cook them up anyway you would spinach or chard....they are then perfectly mild. This is a good way to keep the rampant vines under control in a small space...by pruning off the tips to cook. They'll provide a renewable harvest of nutritious greens through the hot months. You can safely harvest 10-20% of the greens without diminishing the yield of the tubers.
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