My grandfather's timing couldn't have been more fitting. He is a knowledgeable man, devoted to science based reading and gardening. As a young girl he introduced me to the gastronomic pleasures of tender greenbrier shoots and steamed day lilly greens.
Occasionally I will receive a piece of mail from him with a newspaper cut out, or an article excerpt on topics from gardening to health and nutrition. This most recent piece was a feature on sweet potatoes. Given that we had planned to harvest our sweet potato crop this weekend, I was very interested to learn about the leaves being compared to spinach. I had no idea. The article points to sweet potatoes as not only highly palatable and thrifty, but unsurpassed in their ability add nutritional diversity to the diet.
In 1920, the average American consumed about 30 pounds of sweet potatoes per year. Today, most of us average about 4 pounds per person. This is too bad, because, as the article goes on to point out, the health benefits of eating sweet potatoes are almost endless. They contain over three times the dietary fiber as cooked oats and white potatoes, high levels of potassium, B6, vitamin C, and most importantly, when discussing the benefits of eating the leafy sweet potato greens, a carotenoid called lutein. The greens are one of "the richest sources of dietary lutein, which helps protect against age-related macular degeneration."
The plants themselves also help attract pollinators and double as weed protection as the substantial vines sprawl throughout the garden.
The harvest was a grand success. Some of the tubers were close to football size. We roasted a few last night, and thoroughly enjoyed the greens creamed alongside our favorite local bratwurst
I only wish the leaves were more agreeable in storing, but they do not like the cold of the fridge, and succumb to wilt as soon as they are tugged from the soil. The key is to run out to the garden and grab a fresh armful right before sounding the
Creamed Sweet Potato Greens:
*2-3 cups sweet potato leaves, rinsed
*1 small onion, chopped
*2 Tbsp unsalted butter
*1 Tbsp AP flour
*1/2 cup raw cream
*sea salt and pepper
*a squeeze of fresh lemon
Rinse and chop sweet potato greens. Place butter in a medium saucepan over med/low heat. Add onions and saute until golden. Add the flour and whisk with a fork for 1 minute. Add the chopped greens. Stir. Pour in the cream and stir until thickened, about 1 minute. Add a splash of water if need be. Season with salt, pepper and squeeze of lemon. Enjoy!