While both orange, they’re not your average sweet

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 11, 2010

As I was driving a week or so ago, there was a truck on the side of the road with just sweet potatoes and satsumas. Eat local, eat seasonal. We can grow both in this part of the world and now is the harvest time for both.

Satsumas tolerate more cold than most citrus, and they can also be grown in pots and taken into the garage for the real cold snaps. I am growing mine outside in the ground these days. It wasn’t the cold last year that got them, but the deer. The best rootstock is trifoliate. Owari is probably the best variety for this area. Fertilize in January, February or March. Harvest begins in November. The fruit will hold better on the tree than picked, if you have a lot and need to space your harvest.

Sweet potatoes, we know better. Foodways calls sweet potatoes one of the great triumvirate of Southern vegetables along with turnips and cowpeas. The sweet potato requires a sandy soil and a warm, moist climate. The latter two we have in abundance. My Covington County garden had sandier soil than I now have, but sweet potatoes can be grown in clay, as I can attest. (I am working to improve my soil.) Sweet potatoes are put out as slips in April. Several varieties are available. There is even a white one. I go to the co-op and buy my slips – Beauregard this year. It was developed at Louisiana State University in 1987. Since the vines are attractive, this is another vegetable that can be used in the flower garden. It vines, so trailing down a wall is a good place. Most gardeners these days grow the more decorative red and chartreuse plants but why not get a little to eat to boot.

The sweet potato was taken back to Spain around 1500 from the Americas by Columbus and quickly spread. In the U.S., North Carolina is the leading producer, but all Southern states produce them commercially. So they are readily available this time of year, if you haven’t grown your own. They are fiber rich, fat and cholesterol free, with large amounts of vitamin C and a respectable dose of Vitamin E, as well as vitamin A and folic acid, iron, copper, calcium and beta-carotene. Researchers have shown that the sweet potato has anti-tumor, anti-HIV, anti-muscular dystrophy, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-hypertensive and anti-diabetic effects. Sounds like the promises of a snake-oil salesman. Suffice it to say, they are good for you.

You can add sliced oranges to any of your favorite sweet potato recipes or try the one below.

Sweet Potato and

Orange Casserole

Cook 2 pounds sweet potatoes; drain. Set aside. Peel and cut the orange rinds into ¼ inch slices. Grate orange rinds to 2 teaspoons. Set aside. Peel then slice three oranges into ¼ inch slices. (If you are using Satsumas, they peel easily and then divide into sections.) Mix with potato. Coat a 9×13 inch pan with butter. Add potatoes and orange.

In saucepan mix orange peel, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 cup orange juice, 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup and 1/8 teaspoon cloves. Stir until thick, pour over potatoes, bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

Sweet Potato Pecan Casserole

(Pecans are another seasonal product of our area and I have been pickling up lots this year.)

3 egg whites

½ tsp. salt

¼ cup sugar

1 can (1lb.8oz.) sweet potatoes, drained, (Why on earth use canned this time of year?) or 2 cups mashed yams or sweet potatoes (Yams and sweet potatoes are different species but are the same for cooking purposes.)

¼ cup sugar

1 egg yolk

¼ tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. mace

1 Tbsp. orange peel

½ cup light cream

½ cup coarsely chopped pecans

Whole pecans for garnish

In large bowl, let egg whites warm to room temperature about 1 hour, and also preheat oven to 375 degrees.

With electric mixer at high speed, beat egg whites with salt just until soft peaks form when the beater is slowly raised. Gradually add ¼ cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks when the beater is slowly raised.

In another bowl, using same beater, combine sweet potatoes, ¼ cup sugar, egg yolk, cinnamon, mace and orange peel. Beat at high speed for two minutes until mixture is smooth.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan, heat cream to boiling, slowly add to sweet potato mixture, beating until combined.

With wire whisk or rubber spatula, using and under and over motion, fold sweet potato mixture and chopped pecans into egg whites just until combined.

Gently turn into 1 quart straight soufflé dish. Bake 45 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. (Ten minutes before end of baking time, arrange whole pecans on top.)

Serve at once, with butter, if desired.

Makes 8 servings.