Friday, November 4, 2011

Sweet Potato Harvest and A Special Visitor to Our School Garden

This week we were privileged to host a special visit from Chef Marcus Samuelsson and His Royal Highness Prince Daniel of Sweden who were touring Harlem with the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce who were hosting a Green Summit on environmental and sustainable food systems. On Tuesday several students worked along with our Garden and Nutrition Instructor, Mia Littlejohn, and Executive Chef Andrew Benson to harvest the final few root vegetables that we'd grown including sweet potatoes, carrots and beets. It was a full day of harvesting, cooking (glazed carrots), and eating (Sweet Potato Bisque). You can read more about the royal tour and the ongoing efforts of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce to promote environmental and sustainability issues here.

If you've never had the chance to harvest a sweet potato, this is a really fun and rewarding gardening activity! After we planted these puny looking sweet potato sprouts in the spring, they had blossomed into a cascade of leaves--which are also edible! But of course, as with any root vegetable, you never know exactly what's lurking under the surface of the soil and part of the thrill is having to wait until you are ready to unearth whatever is growing. Mia pulled a few carrots and sweet potatoes to show the students how it was done and they were so beautiful. Here's what they looked like all rinsed off:

Then some of our 8th grades spent nearly an hour digging through the dirt to find the burried treasure of the beautiful sweet potatoes that had grown. A single sweet potato plant will likely grow several potatoes and it's a bit like a hunt to find them. Just like in the kitchen, your hands are your most versatile tool in the home garden. Use your spade to find a potato and then wiggle it out with your hands until it is released from the soil. Here is the big pile of potatoes we grew and harvested:

We're now in the process of shutting down the garden completely for the winter. But it's not going totally dormant just yet. Under the dirt in several bins, we've already got bulbs growing and developing roots for when the sun swings back around and the spring time returns. They'll go dormant with the first hard frost (which is normally around November 10th), but don't worry! They come back to life when the sun swings back around and the spring time returns. It will be here soon enough. First we're looking forward to shorter days and more excuses to stay inside and eat a roasted sweet potato or some glazed carrots or some braised cabbage.

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