November 20, 2014

Farm of the Month: Wise Owl Farm

Each month, as part of our Harvest of the Month program, we will be featuring one island farm here on our blog. We'll talk to our Farm of the Month to learn all about the growing process, seasonality, and favorite ways to enjoy the crop! November is here, and we're celebrating sweet potatoes. Wise Owl Farm is taking over the french fry, one sweet potato at a time. This season, Laurie David planted 3,000 sweet potato slips on her Chilmark farm. Each slip, planted in early June, produces an average of 6 sweet potatoes, which are harvested in October. Last year, Wise Owl Farm donated 1,600 pounds of sweet potatoes to local schools and nonprofits! Laurie is a sweet potato advocate who has some big ideas about working towards a healthy future for our children. Here's what she has to say: "I want kids to love something as much as they love potatoes, but that’s more nutritious. Anything you can do with potatoes, you can do much better than sweet potatoes. I think sweet potatoes have a real shot at taking over the French fry. That’s our goal. It’s a big goal, but I think we can do it. For our sweet potatoes on the farm, we buy organic slips from North Carolina. You plant the slips and you water and weed until the get established. Each slip gives you about 5-7 sweet potatoes, so they are very productive. They do very well in sandy soil like this, and in October they should be ready. We plant them on little hills and the sweet potatoes themselves start to push up from the ground. They are much easier to harvest than potatoes, which you have to dig for. The challenge is that once they are ready, they have to be cured, so they need to be put into a warm space for about a week. We generally bring them to North Tabor Farm, where they have a big greenhouse. It makes to skin hard and it helps the sweetness set in. The majority of our sweet potatoes will be given away. We give them to the schools, and we give them to the food pantry. This farm was a way to make use of the land and try to produce food for people who might not have access to it. I love the idea that a sweet potato could be dinner, or it could be lunch, and it doesn’t require anything more than just baking it. So I think, to some extent, we have to change what we think dinner is. It doesn’t have to be three courses and a homemade apple pie, it could be a beautiful sweet potato with some toppings on it. It’s just simplifying what we’re eating and eating the good stuff instead of grabbing the bad stuff. I would say I’m a sweet potato advocate. It’s one of the most nutritious things you can eat, and it’s not hard to grow. It’s the sun and the rain doing all the hard work!" WiseOwlFarm_0003_edit Try out one of Laurie's favorite ways to enjoy sweet potatoes, from her new cookbook, The Family Cooks. Roasted Sweet Potato Coins 3 medium sweet potatoes (unpeeled) 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking sheets salt and pepper Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, cut the sweet potatoes crosswise into ¼-inch thick rounds. Toss them with olive oil so they are completely covered and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a well-oiled baking sheet. Cover tightly with foil. Back for 30 to 40 minutes. Uncover, and bake for about 20 more minutes.