Monday, July 20, 2015

Coles selling two varieties of sweet potato as "White Sweet Potato"

In Australia supermarkets sell about two to three varieties of Sweet Potato - the orange Beauregard, the purple Northern Star (with the white flesh) and the white Hawaiian Sunshine (white flesh with purple streaks). In Melbourne the biggest grocery retailers, Coles and Woolworths, usually only sell Northern Star and Beauregard. Last week I noticed that my local Coles were selling Hawaiian Sunshine - or so I thought! In fact they were selling Hawaiian Sunshine along with some other off-white Sweet Potato as a generic "White Sweet Potato". Apart from their different colour and texture these two "white potatoes" had different internal colours. How do I know this? I broke the tops off a couple to make sure. I saw this at the Coles in Northcote Plaza (the Coles that used to be Bi-Lo). And then I had to go to Ivanhoe Coles in the afternoon and I saw the same set-up. You can see my photos below. And what's the big deal you might say? Well, I think this is really odd and a bit insulting to consumers. It would be like selling Butternut and Queensland Blue pumpkins in the same bin as "pumpkins" or Valencia and Navel oranges as generic "oranges". Not cool I say!

Coles Northcote

Coles Northcote

Coles Ivanhoe

Anyway, if Coles are helping Sweet Potato growers introduce new varieties then that's great but let us know what's going on! It is remarkable when you consider that there are around 6000 Sweet Potato varieties grown across the planet. Papua New Guinea, our nearest neighbour, is a hot spot for Sweet Potato diversity and yet we stay stuck mostly with boring old Beauregard which is the biggest seller in Australia by a long shot. Of course Beauregard has its virtues including high yield, ease of harvest (the tubers are close to the main stem) and disease resistance etc. Its the variety that has brought Sweet Potato back into Western diets as a mainstream food after its development in Louisiana in the 1980s.

I'm going to look into this practice of "lumping" varieties together and see what's going on...

Friday, July 10, 2015

Yams in the Burnley Demonstration Garden 2014-2015 growing season

We're well into the depths of winter here in Melbourne - in fact there's a one-in-60-years Antarctic Vortex on the way - but we've just finished harvesting last summer's yams from the demonstration garden in the Field Station. In this post I'll just show some photos of the garden as it grew over summer and autumn and some of the yams we patiently dug up. Unlike other roots crops that emerge from the ground without a fight, yams grow straight down and deep, so if you don't want to break them you have dig carefully around them to as much as 40cm, probably deeper in more optimal climates. I'll get into some more of these growing issues in later posts. 

early November 2014 - freshly planted

My office turned into a curing shed for yams...a diversity of shapes and sizes...look weird but taste great