Most vegetables and fruits are at their best when freshly harvested. One of the main reasons to buy them at a farmers’ market is to get fresher produce. But there are some exceptions, and fall provides a couple of good examples of the exceptions: sweet potatoes and winter squash. Many varieties of winter squash are best when they have been cured and stored for a while. Varieties differ on when their sweet spot is, but many reach their best flavour a month or two after being harvested.
Best the best example of this are sweet potatoes. My view is that sweet potatoes taste better the longer they’ve been stored. The best ones I’ve ever had were Murasaki sweet potatoes that had been sitting in the pantry for a full year. The flavour was so concentrated and they were so sweet they almost tasted caramelized.
Sweet potatoes are easy to store. A cool and dark room is great. Do not put them in the refrigerator, though. That degree of cold will damage them. The ideal temperature is 55-60°F, but you can stray a fair bit from that without problem. Occasionally check the potatoes. Once in a while one will start rotting and if you spot that in time, you may still be able to salvage most of the potato. You can certainly keep it from affecting any neighbouring potatoes.
The potatoes may dry out somewhat and sometimes will feel a bit wilted. Small ones can dry out too much, but in general don’t think of this as a problem. Rather, just think of this as concentrating their flavour.
If sweet potatoes are better after having been stored for a while, are freshly dug ones still good? You can certainly eat freshly dug ones. But this depends on the variety, too. I think freshly dug Orleans, for example, are quite good. Murasakis, on the other hand, can really use some storage. I’ll have some of the latter at the market this week, but with some reluctance, since they really don’t taste the way they should yet. Or at least so I think. — Sydney
This week’s items
Items we plan to have at the market this week (an asterisk indicates unusually limited quantities):
- Beans, Dry (Tiger’s Eye)
- Beans, Shell* (White)
- Beans, Snap* (White Half-Runner)
- Broccoli* and Broccolini*
- Cowpeas, Dry (Black Crowder and Whippoorwill)
- Granola* (Cushaw Pecan)
- Microgreens (Tokyo Bekana)
- Radish (Lilac Daikon and Watermelon*)
- Squash, summer* (various)
- Squash, winter (Lunga di Napoli, Metro Butternut, Sonca, and others)
- Sweet potatoes (Murasaki and Orleans)