Cooking

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It has been just lovely these past few weeks. The temperatures have looked more like 90 than 100 and in August in Texas this northern girl is grateful for it. When it cools down like this and get rain, we plant and plant. Mostly it’s brassicas and roots going into the ground for the fall garden, but I like to throw in some lettuce and herbs as well.

These little guys won’t be ready for a couple of months, however, so I am turning to our favorite hot weather salad and cooking greens – sweet potato leaves!

Right now our sweet potato bed is a big ol’ tangled mess of the greenest, lushest leaves thanks to the rains we had recently. So I pick a few off of every plant to spread out the harvest. When it is cooler and wetter like this there is no detectable bitter flavor whatsoever. It just tastes, well, green and full of life.

Sweet Potato Leaf Nutrition

According to the University of Arkansas, sweet potato leaves are comparable to spinach:

“Depending on varieties and growing conditions, sweet potato leaves are comparable to spinach in nutrient content. The average mineral and vitamin content in a recently developed cultivar, Suioh, is 117 mg calcium, 1.8 mg iron, 3.5 mg carotene, 7.2 mg vitamin C, 1.6 mg vitamin E and 0.56 mg vitamin K/100 g fresh weight of leaves. Levels of iron, calcium and carotene rank among the top, as compared with other major vegetables.”

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Use of Sweet Potato Leaves

We use sweet potato leaves both in cooked dishes and raw salads, depending on their flavor

When sweet potato greens are a bit more bitter, either due to a plant stressor or due to the stage at which they are at, we like to cook with them. Cooking sweet potato leaves results in a green somewhere between cooked spinach and cooked collard greens.

When they are lush and sweet, as they are right now, I primarily use them as a salad green. They can be mixed with other greens, or used on their own as in the salad recipe below.

In either case, harvest sweet potato greens sparingly from individual plants so that the roots will continue to form. When we have a big bed such as this, I simply walk around the perimeter and snip off leaves here and there, being sure to pick from every plant so as not to stress any single plant.

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Sweet Potato Green Salad with Tomato and Onion

Ingredients

  • 6 packed cups sweet potato leaves
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup homemade vinaigrette

Directions

Chop the sweet potato leaves finely. I find kitchen shears an efficient way to do this. Combine with the tomatoes and onion and toss with homemade vinaigrette or salad dressing of choice.

Serve as a side salad or top with protein or cooked, fermented grains for a main dish.

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It happens nearly every year. The spring brings rain upon rain and you begin to take for granted the nights filled with pounding on a tin roof. And then it inches ever closer to June and you don’t quite know, when the rain stops, when it will come again.

Last Friday the rain came. It soaked us fully and completely as we hiked over dirt roads impassable by car. We were soaked through by the time we got home, weary from the walk, but arms-out grateful to experience it fully as we did. The ground soaked it up in no time, the ponds filled for gardens and goats, the tanks filled for us. It’s been 10-20 degrees cooler ever since and they’re forecasting rain this whole week.

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I’ve been away from home in the afternoons lately. Getting home to a baby needing feeding and a hot family during the dinner hour proved challenging, if only for the fact that nothing sounded good to anyone in that 100 degree weather. Except, of course, cold goat milk… and watermelon… and whatever salad Mama makes us eat before we get to those goodies.

This kidney bean and greens salad got us through a few of those nights this past month.

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P.S. This is what happens when you threaten to eat Annabelle’s portion of the watermelon.

Cold Kidney Bean and Greens Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 cans organic kidney beans (approximately 4.5 cups cooked beans)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1/2 large yellow onion
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3 packed cups salad greens (lettuce, spinach, arugala, etc.)
  • salt to taste

Directions

Combine beans, carrot, onion, garlic, oil, lemon, and chili in a large bowl. Gently stir in salad greens and season with salt to taste.

Serve with watermelon and fresh goat milk or at your next picnic.