Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Webb City Sentinel column - 10-7-11

Now that the market is open only on Fridays and Saturdays, and my visiting family has left (boo hoo), I was able to catch up on the Kerr Center’s fall issue of Field Notes. The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture is in Poteau, Oklahoma, and their lead story sounds familiar. “Blizzards and record cold, tornadoes, gale force winds, flooding rains, drought and record heat…” What a year. But they also had some good news, as do we. It turns out that sweet potatoes thrive in the heat, which is lucky because demand is up for sweet potatoes.

Until 2007 annual per capita consumption of sweet potatoes hadn’t changed in 40 years, holding steady at four pounds per person. It even trailed consumption of celery! In 1943 we averaged almost 22 pounds per person.

But the sweet potato has been rediscovered. It began showing up on the top ten lists of “super foods” that we should make a part of our regular diet. It’s high in vitamins A and C, potassium, antioxidants and fiber. Though sweet, it’s low on the glycemic index, making it a good choice for diabetics (unless like me you cook it with loads of sugar).

Broken Wire, who come on both Friday and Saturday, and Fair Haven, who usually only come on Friday, have sweet potatoes – and butternut squash. And they say demand will overcome their supply soon. They thought they had planted enough to last through November. Not so, but they’re planning to double their plantings next year. Pates Orchard often comes on Fridays with sweet potatoes.

I’d recommend buying both sweet potatoes and butternut. A few weeks ago I included a very easy butternut squash recipe in this column. I made that dish, as well as a sweet potato recipe. What a good combination. The sweet potato was a big hit, it’s almost like dessert and the squash toned the meal down with a milder flavor. Add some steamed boc choy and a meat dish and you have a nutritious, tasty market meal.

And what a versatile vegetable, the sweet potato is. lists 100 recipes from soups to pies to casseroles to fries and chips to salads to ice cream! I’ve included a sample recipe below.

You may find two different vegetables labeled as sweet potatoes at the market - the kind we’re used to, as well as an Asian variety. The latter is generally smaller around and not orange. It’s also much starchier and not nearly as sweet as the North American version. It’s actually much more like a regular potato.

We have lots going on at the market this weekend. Today, the Sours play traditional music. Soup du Jour serves our lunch – a choice of Chicken Pot Pie Soup or Braised Spinach with Swiss Cheese Soup, plus crackers and cobbler for $5.

Tomorrow, the Loose Notes play. Crime Stoppers will be serving breakfast – biscuits and gravy, sausage and orange juice or coffee for $3.50. Add a dollar for two market fresh eggs cooked to order.

Mai’s Chinese and Thai Food will serve lunch and takeaway from 9 to noon.

The streetcar makes its last market runs for the season Saturday from 9 to 11. The rides are free. And we’ll have the last Art Market of the season.

Bob Foos will take portraits at the market Saturday so bring the kids out for a memorable photo. A package of one 5x7 and eight wallet-sized photos will cost $6.

So come on out and stock up on honey, jams and jellies, meats and lots of fresh produce. We are practically buried in green beans right now and the greens are wonderful. There are radishes, green onions, eggplant, peppers and loads of other local crops coming in. Get it while you can – it’s harvest season.

Glazed Sweet Potatoes

4 tablespoons of butter, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter.

Cut each of the sweet potatoes into 88 evenly shaped wedges (or if you end up with differently sized potatoes which is likely at the market, you can simply slice into about 1/2-inch “coins” across). Lay them out in the prepared baking dish in an even layer.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Mix in syrup and cook until smooth. Pour the glaze over the sweet potatoes and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for about 45 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork but still hold their shape.

If you have any left-overs, which is unlikely unless you make a ton, you can serve them again in a different form. Simply mashed the potatoes until fairly smooth, put in a baking dish to reheat and top with mini-marshmallows about 10 minutes prior to serving. Don’t overdo the marshmallows. They’ll puff up to twice or triple their original size.