Mary's Veggie Garden

November 18, 2013

11/18/2013: Leaves, Leaves, and more Leaves! and Some Food

Filed under: Beets,Carrots,Leeks,Radishes,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 10:27 am

Monday 11/4 I awoke to see a steady fall of yellow leaves. The temperature was several degrees below freezing and overnight our eight mature Norway maples all decided to release their leaves. This was the view from my front door – there are even several falling leaves silhouetted against the street.

A golden day - Norway maple leaf fall

A golden day – Norway maple leaf fall.

Saving these leaves is the most important thing I do each autumn to insure the success of the next year’s garden. I use the shredded leaves as mulch in all my gardens. Over the last several years I’ve experimented with applying the leaves closer and closer to planting time and each year I’m doing less and less weeding. The leaves also preserve soil moisture, prevent the clay soil from baking hard, and prevent splash-back, keeping veggies cleaner.

So my husband and I set to work, me with a rake to clear edges and he with the massive gas-powered blower that came with our house.  Next, he feeds the shredder while I bag leaves or haul them to the ex-dog-pen (it also came with the house). We work together for a couple of hours with nary a word, a perfectly synchronized team. Leaf clearing was unusually easy this year. We’ve have only 2″ of rain since Oct. 1 so the leaves are crackling dry.

Saturday 11/16, after clearing the roof gutters, we declared “Leaf Season is DONE”. The few remaining leaves will be allowed to lay where they fall. Here is the result of our labors.

Twenty nine full leaf bags for  which I'll use at the community gardens.

Twenty nine full leaf bags which I’ll use at the community gardens. (Half the bags are invisible behind those in front.)

The dog pen containing the leave I use in my gardens at home.

The dog pen containing the leave I use in my gardens at home.

Don’t have a shredder? Use whole leaves. They work great on paths and under large plants like tomatoes, squash, corn, peppers, and even under beans.

When not clearing leaves, I harvested some crops. I had mulched the watermelon radish roots because freezing changes the texture of vegetables. Then the freeze killed the foliage so I decided to harvest and store them in my root cellar. We’ve been eating slices of watermelon radish on our romaine & spinach salads. It’s flavor is mildly spicy radish with a surprising sweetness. Surprising because I’m used to salad radishes which are not sweet.

Watermelon radishes.

Watermelon radishes.

Also harvested the only two summer planted beets to size up.

Red Ace and Cylindra beets

Red Ace and Cylindra beets

Yesterday I harvested leeks for Leek & Celeriac soup. The leeks are growing in my home garden so I’ll mulch them well and harvest as needed all winter. I planted the leeks in the sunniest part of the garden (which is still somewhat shady) so they are bigger than past harvests.

Tadorna leeks

Tadorna leeks

And last, but certainly not least, I spent six days harvesting carrots. I’ll post about the carrots next week. But here is a teaser:

Yaya carrots: 19 pounds from  my 6/25 planting.

Yaya carrots: 19 pounds from my 6/25 planting.

November 9, 2013

Purple Sweet Potato Hummus

Filed under: Recipes,Sweet Potatoes,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 8:40 am

Gloopy purple food – what better for a Halloween themed snack table? Well, it could also be healthy, mostly organic and local like this Purple Sweet Potato hummus.

Purple Sweet Potato Hummus and Yaya carrot sticks.

Purple Sweet Potato Hummus and Yaya carrot sticks.

I harvested almost 90 pounds of sweet potatoes this year. I’ve been browsing the internet for new sweet potato recipes and found this one for Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus. It was only a starting point – the recipe evolved as I made it.

We don’t like hot pepper so my first recipe change was cutting the cayenne to 1/8 teaspoon. To me, the heat was just noticeable, subtle but not obnoxious.

The next problem: how big is a medium sweet potato? My SPs range in size from a few ounces to 2 or 3 pounds. Even checking with the NC Sweet Potato Board didn’t help much: one recipe used 4 ounces and the other 8 ounces for a medium SP.

I used Purple Sweet Potatoes for this recipe. Purple is the specific variety name. Purple also describes the sweet potato: it is purple inside and out after cooking. I chose Purple primarily for the color, a white or orange variety would work as well.

My hummus mix was too stiff and dry to mix in my stand blender. The problem was either the chickpeas or the sweet potatoes and I’m inclined to blame the chickpeas. I started with dried chickpeas, soaked them overnight, boiled for about an hour until very tender then drained. In my experience canned beans are much mushier and wetter than home cooked beans so I expect they’d blend more easily.

Different varieties have different cooking qualities. Some bake up rather dry, some are firm and moist, and others are easily mashed after baking. Purple is firm and moist after baking. A mushier sweet potato, such as Georgia Jets, would probably mix up more easily.

Whatever the problem, either beans or sweet potatoes, the hummus mixture was very stiff. Even after adding water, my stand blender couldn’t handle the mix. I ended up scraping the mix into a deep bowl and using my stick blender – a much better choice.


Purple Sweet Potato Hummus

  • Sweet Potatoes – approximately 3/4 pound, well scrubbed
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 2 Tbsp. tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 cup water

Bake the sweet potatoes in their skins at 375° until easily punctured with a fork – 30-60 minutes depending on the size and shape. I usually wrap them in foil for a moister potato after baking. Allow sweet potatoes to cool, then peel and chop coarsely.

Combine everything except the water in a deep bowl and blend with a stick blender. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until the mix reaches the right stiffness. The amount of water will depend on the moistness of the beans and the sweet potato variety.

Note: I started with 3/8 lb. sweet potato but decided the color wasn’t rich enough so I added a second SP. This resulted in a somewhat sweet hummus with all the sweetness provided by the sweet potatoes.

Make this recipe to suit your taste by changing the quantity of sweet potatoes, beans, and spices.

Where can you find Purple sweet potatoes? I’ve heard they are available in some farmers markets and health food stores might also carry them. I grow my own. I originally bought my slips from Sand Hill Preservation.

Purple Sweet Potato Hummus , Yaya carrot sticks and commercial crackers.

Purple Sweet Potato Hummus , Yaya carrot sticks and commercial crackers.

Too bad I didn’t manage a gruesome Halloween name for the mix.

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