Eating habits in our communities have drastically changed. The most obvious evidence of this is the consistently bare shelves in the local supermarket.
Going out to do our weekly grocery shopping I wander the isles and make note of empty store shelves that were never empty before. There is a theme in those empty shelves, a pattern that reveals that how we eat has changed in substantial ways.
One of the first things to disappear from our local grocery were what I consider comfort foods… Boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese, tins of biscuit dough, and that Hawaiian favorite SPAM. In those early days of stay at home orders people bought foods that were familiar from childhood, offering a reassurance of normalcy, at least in the kitchen.
Late last fall I put a new vegetable bed into use. After several years of accumulating compost and shoveling cinder soil I actually have something like real soil in a large enough quantity to call a vegetable garden.
One of the first things planted were sweet potatoes. Deb and I love the local purple sweet potatoes. The Okinawan variety is a favorite through the islands and has become a staple on our table as well, usually purchased from local growers at the farmers market.
Knowing that these are pretty easy to grow I gave it a try. I planted a ten by ten area with half a dozen slips and arranged a soaker hose that runs on the automatic drip system. It was not long before I had green foliage popping up. The potato patch certainly looks healthy enough, the plants thriving in the Waikoloa sunlight. The patch quickly became a heavy tangle of vines with pretty white and purple flowers.
This weekend I finally decided to do a trial run at digging up a plant to see what I have… To my stunned amazement I have not a pile of little tubers, but one giant tuber right underneath the main plant. What the heck is this?
This thing was huge, six inches long and five inches in diameter, weighing several pounds. There was enough in this single tuber for several meals!
Consider the usual Okinawan sweet potato is an inch or two in diameter and four or five inches long. Why is this so different? The starting stock for my potato patch was quite typical, just a few Okinawans I had bought at the farmers market and set aside for planting. I expected to get much the same out of the ground, not this giant.