When the leaves start to change and the slow heat of summer takes it's sweet time clearing the air and making way for a brisk fall breeze, that's the time of year I love the most.
In the South, the long stretch from late September to early November becomes a time of daily wardrobe uncertainty. Rarely is there an October day that I don't leave my house without a jacket hiding a tank top, pants that aren't too heavy and can be rolled up, a coat just in case, boots on with flats in my bag, and an umbrella. How else can you dress for 75 degrees at mid-day and 40 degrees when the sun goes down? If I'm leaving my home at 7:30AM and not returning until 9:00PM, a North Carolina fall means I must be prepared for wildly varying temperatures that make for a pleasant day, but a difficult outfit.
Warm days mean shopping on main street and picking grapes off the vine. Cool nights mean drinking craft beer wrapped in flannel at a local brewery and visiting a haunted corn maze with your friends. The leaves change, the trees burst into color, and the ground becomes littered in autumn-colored confetti.
While the retail industry tries to convince you that the beginning of October means the beginning of Christmas, in Johnston County we're content to let the fall holidays unfold at their own pace. It could be that most southerners are content to let things happen in their own time. It could be that in our agricultural region we're too busy with the harvest to contemplate Christmas lights. From picking pumpkins straight from the patch for Halloween, to cooking up our bounty and counting blessings at Thanksgiving, to celebrating Christmas with light shows, carols, and cookies, each holidays gets its own time to shine.
While Starbucks fueled pumpkin frenzy descends upon your social media channels and grocery store isles (no offense to Starbucks and their excellent lattes), I'm much more focused on the lesser-acclaimed vegetable of the fall season- the sweet potato. Versatile. Savory and Sweet. Filling. Served as a side dish or dressed-up as a dessert. The perfect compliment to a cool fall evening meal, a Thanksgiving feast, or a Holiday Lunch!
North Carolina and Johnston County, have long been a leader in the U.S. for sweet potato production. In celebration, I've linked recipes below that highlight the flexibility of the sweet potato as an ingredient. Enjoy! And be sure to share pictures as you attempt these, and your own, sweet potato creations.