Monday, November 17, 2008

Of Voles and Sweet Potatoes, or: Linguica, Sweet Potato and Spinach Chowder

My Winter CSA box this week from Turner Farm contained sweet potatoes...lots of sweet potatoes. The ugliest sweet potatoes you've ever seen.

This is what a sweet potato looks like when it's been damaged by voles. Pretty ugly, eh? But other than the obvious cosmetic damage, there's no harm to the sweet potato -- you can trim off the damaged parts and use it as usual. Vole-damaged sweet potatoes even store just as well as perfect specimens. But of course a lot of people would be put off by the visual and pass these up in favor of more perfect-appearing sweets. So when you're hitting the farmers' markets at the end of the season, if you see some ugly sweet potatoes cheap, snap 'em up! They're a bargain, and you're rewarding a farmer for using organic methods.

I also had some excellent-looking young spinach in the CSA box, and I had a few onions from the farmers' market down at Findlay. I'd picked up some wonderful linguica from Linwood Sausage Company at one of the last Hyde Park Farmers' Market days a few weeks ago, and I always keep chicken stock in my freezer. It's a blustery day, with the first sleet of the season. I'd had my fireplace going since mid-morning. Soup seemed like the perfect choice. So I made one of my favorite rustic autumn soups.

Linguica, Sweet Potato, and Spinach Chowder
Serves 6

1 pound linguica
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds sweet potatoes, roughly chopped
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 6-quart stock pot to medium high. Score linguica links and squeeze sausage out of the casings into hot pan; break apart with wooden spoon into small pieces. Add onions and garlic and fry until sausage is cooked through. Add sweet potatoes and cook fifteen minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes to an hour and a half, or until sweet potatoes start to fall apart. Add spinach and cook until wilted; correct seasonings; serve.


Tabitha said...

Mmm...linguica, sweet potato and spinach are three of my favorite things--this sounds delicious! Thanks for the recipe!
I intern for the Eat Well Guide (you mentioned us on the blog back in August when our "Cultivating the Web" guide came out--thanks!). Eat Well has teamed up with the Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, to issue a Local, Organic Thanksgiving Challenge.We're inviting people to take a spin on the Eat Well Guide to find local food and cook at least one local (preferably organic) dish for Thanksgiving, and share recipes at the CU site. Read more about it at the Green Fork. []

valereee said...

Tabitha, thanks! I'll go take a look at the Local Organic Thanksgiving Challenge!

Nikki Smith said...

This looks like a yummy recipe. I <3 sweet potatoes! I've been reading a lot on killing voles because they are such pests, but they live out there - where else are they supposed to go? So I'm glad to see you're able to work around the problem (literally). I've also read if you install mesh wiring around target plants, you can help to eliminate the problem before it begins.

valereee said...

Nikki, a lot of folks put mesh around their hostas to protect them from voles.

My problem is deer. My only garden area is on a direct path between the area the deer stay at night and the closest water. They treat my garden as a giant salad bar. I grow mostly aromatics that don't much appeal to deer except when they're desperate.