Sweet potatoes — possibly the perfect vegetable?

Down in Pike County, Dave Bentoski has been busy harvesting sweet potatoes. “It’s been a really good year. We should have about 3 tons. That will make lots of people happy,” said Bentoski, whose D & A Farm is in Zebulon.

Bentoski’s 3 tons of sweet potatoes come from a half-acre planting of “Beauregard,” a sweet potato developed at Louisiana State University in the late 1980s. Bentoski likes it because he finds it to be a reliable high-yielding variety, but he loves it because it’s delicious.

A good-tasting sweet potato is important to Bentoski because he likes his sweet potatoes very simply prepared. “When the sugars are good, you can’t miss with a baked sweet potato. A little butter and salt, that’s all you need,” he said.

Sweet potatoes are also a nutritional powerhouse. What other vegetable can claim to offer so many vitamins and minerals? Sweet potatoes have beta-carotene and vitamins C and B6, along with iron, thiamine, niacin, manganese, copper, phosphorus and calcium. A medium-sized sweet potato has only 130 calories and almost 4 grams of dietary fiber.

Harvesting sweet potatoes at D & A Farm means mowing the vines down to get them out of the way, and then sending machines into the field to dig up the potatoes. The sweet potatoes are cured in the shade by stacking them in crates with plenty of air circulation. “This lets the moisture work its way out over two or three weeks and concentrates the sugars,” Bentoski said.

A properly cured and undamaged sweet potato, stored at 58 degrees, will keep for up to six months. “That’s another beautiful thing about them,” he said.

Bentoski’s 3 tons of sweet potatoes will go to his restaurant customers and to shoppers at the Saturday morning Morningside Farmers Market.

AT LOCAL FARMERS MARKETS

Cooking demos:

  • 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 29. Chef Ben Barth from Local Three working with African squash. Morningside Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.morningsidemarket.com
  • 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 29. Chef Todd Richard of The Shed at Glenwood. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.peachtreeroadfarmersmarket.com
  • 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 30. Chef Todd Ginsberg of Bocado. Grant Park Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.grantparkmarket.org

For sale:

Vegetables, fruit and nuts: African squash, apples, arugula, Asian greens, beets, chard, chestnuts, collards, corn, cucumbers, dandelion, eggplant, field peas, garlic, ginger, green and yellow beans, herbs, kale, komatsuna, lettuce, Malabar spinach, muscadine grapes, melons, mizuna, mushrooms, mustard greens, okra, onions, pea shoots, pears, peppers, persimmons, pole beans, pomegranate, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, sorrel, spaghetti squash, spinach, sweet potato greens, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, watermelon, winter squash, yellow squash, zucchini

— From local reports

The Shed’s Sweet Potato Hash

Hands on: 20 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Serves: 8

This recipe is adapted from one chef. Todd Richards of The Shed will be demonstrating at Saturday’s Peachtree Road Farmers Market.

2 slices bacon, diced

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, diced (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 cup diced onion

1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock, more if needed

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon bourbon

1 apple, peeled, cored, diced

1 tablespoon chopped pecans

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of fat.

Add sweet potatoes and onions to pan and sauté until sweet potatoes begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add stock, vinegar and bourbon. Simmer until liquid is reduced and potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add more stock if needed. When potatoes are tender, add apples and pecans and cook until apples are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in thyme and sage and taste for seasoning. Stir in butter and reserved bacon and serve immediately.

Per serving: 109 calories (percent of calories from fat, 20), 4 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 3 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 3 milligrams cholesterol, 41 milligrams sodium.

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