On this day we gardeners are thankful. We are thankful for rain and for soil that is rich with earthworms. We are thankful for watching the honey bees and butterflies that visit our gardens. They lower our blood pressure and pollinate our crops.
We are thankful that we live in an area that allows us to grow food almost all year long. We are thankful for the first red, juicy tomato in the summer and we are thankful for that first hard frost so we can put our summer garden to rest. We are thankful for those first pea seedlings that push through the soil in the springtime.
We are thankful for other gardeners.
Wishing you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving dinner is about much more than the turkey – it is also about the pie! In time for Thanksgiving baking we are fortunate to have Lauren Bolden of Woodstock, Georgia’s Pie Bar share a family sweet potato pie recipe with us.
The Pie Bar is a cute shop in downtown Woodstock that sells wonderful pies. It has been open just since September but it is already an asset to the Woodstock community.
Lauren grew up making pies using frozen pie dough. A few years ago she decided to learn how to make homemade crust and after much experimentation she has it perfected!
She and her husband, Cody, began selling pies at area Farmers Markets. There they built a client base and met many of the local farmers. They took a big leap in starting their own pie shop earlier this year. Insisting on using local ingredients when they are available, Lauren enjoys building relationships with farmers. Peaches, pecans, apples and blueberries are all locally grown.
Like all good recipes, the quality of the finished dish depends on your ingredients. For good sweet potato pies you MUST start with quality, cured sweet potatoes. Like the ones you have grown!
Bolden Family Sweet Potato Pie
Makes two pies
– 2 All Butter Pie Crusts (par-baked)
– 3 medium sweet potatoes (roasted in oven)
– 1 can evaporated milk (5oz can)
– 1 cup granulated sugar
– 2 large eggs
– 8 tbs melted butter
– 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1 tsp vanilla
Wash and prick (with a fork) sweet potatoes. Roast potatoes at 400F for 1 hour, or until soft. Cool potatoes, remove skin. Pulse sweet potatoes in blender or food processor until smooth/pureed.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 F.
Place pie shell on baking sheet and fill with parchment paper. Add uncooked beans or pie weights to shells and bake for approximately 7-10 minutes. Remove parchment paper filled with beans/weights; cool shells slightly. You do not want to cook the shells completely. If shell begins to puff up, use a fork to prick slightly.
Combine pureed sweet potatoes, sugar, melted butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. Once combined, add evaporated milk and eggs. Whisk until smooth.
Fill par-baked pie shell with sweet potato filling and return to oven for 35-40 minutes; rotating 180 degrees halfway through. Use a toothpick to check the center of the pie; it should come out clean. Use the back of a teaspoon to lift the edge of the pie shell to check to see if your crust is complete.
Cool pie on the counter for up to 2 hours. Keep pie refrigerated up to 4 days.
We like to top our sweet potato pie with our homemade cinnamon whipped cream. That recipe is below:
Whip heavy whipping cream in stand mixer (or hand mixer) until you notice a slight trail. Add cinnamon, then confectioners sugar one TBS at a time as you continue to mix. Mix until whipped and stands on its own. Store in the refrigerator.
A Sweet Potato Tradition
Recently Grade 6 students of the Waldorf School of Atlanta harvested 960 pounds of sweet potatoes with the help of the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s Fred Conrad. This has become a grand tradition for the school; it is the 5th year of the harvest.
The video of the harvest shows the importance of having young people involved in growing food. As you watch, look at the facial expressions of the students. Thank you Lindsey Lingenfelter for sharing the video. Nine hundred and sixty pounds of sweet potatoes will make alot of pie!
Recently I was privileged to visit the Due West Elementary School Garden in Cobb County, Georgia. The garden program is coordinated by Ms. Rita Fullick, a UGA Extension Cobb Master Gardener. She has been working with the program for four years and her enthusiasm is evident.
Due West Elementary School currently has 640 students. The school garden is spread out around the property. There is a sensory garden for the k-1st graders, a garden devoted to the importance of water, a pollinator garden, a wildlife habitat garden, and vegetable garden plots.
The Math Garden
The math garden is unusual. The beds were created in geometric shapes and professional grade rulers line the beds. Metric and English measurements are both included.
In the Math Garden the learning can be endless. Using a scale to measure soil weight or children’s weight. How much we can carry?
How far apart do we plant? How Deep … both in metric and standard measurements. How high is it growing? How many flowers or vegetables are planted?
Sound like math to you? Counting the number of weeds pulled and the number of rolly pollys collected is understanding the relationship between numbers and quantities. This connects counting to real life.
Did I mention that as the children are working and learning in the garden they are playing in dirt?
There is also an outdoor auditorium. The entire school property is a wonderful space for outdoor learning. The date I visited the students were getting ready for a soil experiment.
The principal, Ms. Peggy Fleming, feels that every student should garden. Ms. Jan Divelbliss, the school science specialist, is also on board with the school garden. The school support is the biggest part of the school garden’s success. Parent involvement is also crucial. Ms. Fullick has a group of involved parents she calls Garden Angels. In addition to assisting during the school year, Garden Angel families volunteer to help keep the gardens in order during the summer months when school is out.
Ms. Fullick gave two pieces of advice she says could help any school garden. First, engage community partners. Don’t be afraid to ask local businesses to be a part of the garden. Visit the businesses in person and don’t be shy about asking for donations. Also, find local experts to provide programs for the students. A representative from the local water department helped the students in developing a rain barrel system.
Secondly, provide signage for the teachers. Some teachers are intimidated with the garden subjects and teaching outdoors. Having signage to guide them encourages more teachers to actually use the garden.
We thank Ms. Fullick for the tour and for the words of wisdom. Due West Elementary is fortunate to have her and we wish them a wonderful school year!
The old ways are not always the best ways. Recently a relative of B. B. Higgins of Griffin, Georgia found a bulletin written by Mr. Higgins who was a botanist at the Georgia Experiment Station. The following was written in January of 1935:
Soil For the Pepper Seedbed
Where clean woods soil is available it is advisable to use new soil for the pepper seedbed each year. When it is not available, the old soil may be used several years provided it is sterilized each year before the seed is planted.
If high pressure steam is available, it is the cheapest and most effective means of doing this. An inverted pan of sheet iron may be made to fit inside the bed walls and attached to the boiler by means of rubber hose. The seam should be run in at 80 to 100 pounds pressure for about an hour, or until a potato placed 12 inches below the surface is thoroughly cooked. The pan may then be moved to another section until the entire bed is sterilized.
The soil may be partially sterilized quite satisfactorily with formaldehyde solution (known commercially as “Formalin”). One gallon of commercial formalin is sufficient for 100 square feet of soil.
First spade up and pulverize the soil. Add 1 gallon of formalin to 99 gallons of water and apply evenly over the soil with a sprinkling can, at least 1/2 gallon per square foot. The soil should then be covered with tarpaulins or other heavy cloth. Two or three layers of old sacks is quite satisfactory. This cover should remain in place 2 to 3 days. It should then be removed to allow the fumes to escape.
As soon as the soil is dry enough it should be spaded over and aired out thoroughly. The seed should not be planted until at least 2 weeks after treatment.
The formalin treatment will not kill all nematodes. If the root-knot nematode is present the soil should be steam sterilized, or the bed over to a new location.
None of us in 2015 would consider using formalin in our garden and steam treatment has long been replaced by the use of heavy black plastic to heat our soils – much safer to apply than steam. Still, doesn’t this make for a minute or two of interesting reading? Remember, this method was promoted in the 1930s.
Reviewing this bulletin emphasizes how important it is to rely on current research-based information. In this age of “the university of Google” and Wikipedia, it is extremely easy to get information that isn’t research-based, is out of date, or is just wrong. With today’s wonderful publishing tools anyone can make an official looking publication. The lesson – know your sources. Looking for information put out from major universities and sources you can trust. Don’t entrust the health of your garden to incorrect information!