Think about garden wish list this winter

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By Cheryl Steenerson

I just love to learn things, and I learn a lot from listening to radio programs.  I just finished listening to a program called Fresh Air on NPR (on 10-18-12) on the road home tonight and I have to share!. It featured an author who’s book is titled Alone Together and it really made me think!   
The subtitle is “Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other” and it’s about being in constant digital contact.  One of the most mind bending points author Sherry Turkle discussed was the developmental effects on kids.  She referred to them as tethered kids.  She also went into texting and the profound effects on kid’s ability to have conversations.  I highly recommend listening to it.  I can’t wait to read the book!
Now, let’s get in the garden!  I was fortunate enough to have my friend John supply me with a bag of sweet potatoes the other day.  His wife had never canned them and wanted to give it a shot.  That made me think that there might be others of you out there.
Canning sweet potatoes isn’t complicated. First, wash the dirt off.   I would suggest grouping them by size as your second step.  
Next, in same size groups, boil or steam them just enough to let the skins slip off easily.  Remove the skins (and any bad spots) and cut into pieces.  I cut them a little bigger than those bite size cubes of cheese you can buy.    
Pack your jars, leaving 1 inch of head space. This is when you add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to pints, or 1 teaspoon to quarts, and pour boiling water into the jar.  
Again, leave 1 inch of head space.  My Presto Cooker-Canner book tells me to process the pints and quarts for 50 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure.  Don’t mix those two numbers up!
Turnips can also be canned.  Wash them and cut them into the size of pieces that you want.  Cover them with cold water in a big sauce pan.  Boil them for 3 minutes.  Pack them into jars  and cover with hot water.  Pack them the same way as for Sweet potatoes, just no salt.  Process the pints for 30 minutes or the quarts for 35 minutes,  at 10 pounds of pressure.
So, what do you do if you don’t have a canner?  Ask for one for Christmas!  I suppose you could also store them for the winter.   Step one, DON’T WASH THEM!  Just knock off the big stuff.  Wet potatoes leads to mold and fungus.  Let them sit in the shade for a dry day to harden them off.  You can also do this inside for 2 days on the kitchen counter or garage floor.  After that, you’re home free.
Pack them in a wooden crate, or a paper bag or a mesh bag (let them get air), and store them in temperatures around 55-65 degrees.  They’ll keep like that for about six to eight weeks. I have a second refrigerator in my kitchen and they stay in there until I get time to can them.   
If you dug your sweet potatoes and they went into the oven that night, you might have been disappointed.  They really need to cure for a day or two, before cooking.
Now that you know what to do with all those sweet potatoes and turnips, you might take a moment to think about how your gardening went this year.  Jot down a few things to remember for next year.  
Maybe you need a new pair of gloves or a tool, or new hose.  It’s one of those things that just ticks you off on the first day in the spring garden, when you remember that you forgot to replace it.   
Make your list.  Get some new ideas. While you’re at it, make a list for Santa!  You know what the cat said when he got his tail caught in the door, “won’t be long now.”   
Happy Growing!

Cheryl Steenerson is the gardening columnist for The Anderson News.