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From Your Garden

Out of the Hill of Giant Sweet Potatoes

The best thing about giant sweet potatoes is digging them up with seven-year-old grandson Aiden in the kitchen garden behind our house in northern Calvert County. Aiden and I picked out one of the largest hills. Mt. Kilimanjaro, we called it. When dug out, that hill yielded 55 pounds of potatoes, with one 20 inches long and big around as the calf of your leg. Another weighed 11 pounds.
    To cook one of these behemoths is a feat in itself. First, you cut it in half and maybe half again. A hearty swimming of our largest meat cleaver went only half though.
    We wrapped a chunk in two layers of foil and heaved it in the wood stove on a bed of coals. We turned it once, then cooked it till a poker went all the way through with no resistance. From the extra heat of the coals, the outside of the tater became caramelized and charred, leaving the inside with a slightly caramely smoked flavor.
    With the butter melting and the steam rising, we served them with venison steaks cooked in bell pepper, onion and mushroom gravy with mashed turnips on the side.
    Sweet potatoes like sandy loam. Find a place in the full sun where the grass grows tall and green. Till or turn the soil as deep as you can two months before planting. Don’t put in any fertilizer or lime. If you can, wait to plant sweet potato sets until June. When the plants start growing, try to keep them from putting down roots between the hills, which should be five to six feet apart. Spray a little liquid fence to keep out the deer and groundhogs.