Veggie Corner

This weekend, I finally got around to pruning back grapevines and tearing out overgrown radishes, aphid-covered kale and bolting mustard greens and broccoli. Next is taming the blackberry and raspberry plants. I’m not (yet) a very good farmer and am thankful I don’t have to rely on what I grow to feed myself. I have a fast growing appreciation for what our farmers are able to grow and provide for us. And I have a greater appreciation for the importance of excellent soil and abundant water.

Sweet potatoes in trenches, as of Aug. 2

In my community garden plot, the beans, squash, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes are looking good, as is the foliage on the many varieties of sweet potato vines Alice Doyle from Log House Plants gave me to try. Apparently, the key to sweet potato success is warm soil; consequently, it’s questionable whether I’ll be successful growing a bountiful harvest (especially since I didn’t line my sweet potato trench with the black plastic that Alice recommends). Amazingly, Alice grows 13 varieties. Who knew there were so many?!? I also learned that the leaves are edible; it takes four months until they are harvestable; and they are in the same family as Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor) and unrelated to the potato.

Okinawan sweet potato

I bought a few Okinawan sweet potatoes at Uwajimaya. I lived in Okinawa for seven months many moons ago and recently heard people rave about the island’s root vegetable, which tempted me to give them a try. They are small with white skin. I expected the flesh to be white, too. As I was peeling them, a beautiful purple flesh emerged, a nice surprise. Steamed with a little butter, salt and pepper, the sweet potato lived up to its name: it was sweet and nutritious.

Ann’s community garden
homemade tomato cage

Alice also gave me a few grafted tomatoes to try. Reading Kym Pokorny’s article about tomatoes in The Oregonian’s HGNW was the first I’d heard of grafted tomatoes. Seemed an odd concept to tell you the truth. Turns out, grafting tomatoes is common in other countries, including Japan. Everyone is skeptical that we’ll have much of a tomato harvest in the Northwest because of our late cool spring. The grafted tomatoes should have a leg up over other tomatoes, however; the rootstock is particularly vigorous providing lots of extra energy for the heirloom top of the plant. Mine look very healthy, are the tallest of the nine I’m growing and have lots of flowers as of this week, but they haven’t set fruit yet. Garden Rant has some good information about grafted tomatoes if you want to read more about them.

You’ll find plants from Log House Plants at Portland Nursery and Garland Nursery.