Sunday, July 24, 2011

One Hundred Things My Mother Taught Me a Million Times - Chapter 74

#74 - A sweet potato makes a beautiful, inexpensive, fast growing houseplant.
(Photo is of mom upon her college graduation - she was 40-years-old and had five kids when she graduated)
I love sweet potatoes and would probably eat them three times a week if the hubby shared that affection. Pan roasted with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of chopped rosemary, yum! I buy them often with the best of intentions, but in reality only cook them occasionally. Those that don’t get cooked sit in my veggie basket patiently waiting to please me, slowly loosing their moisture, their skin shriveling in seeming despair. I glance at them briefly, guiltily, like I’ve somehow let them down by not relishing their sweet, creamy being, and eventually toss them, all the while looking over my shoulder not making potato-eye contact. But, every now and then, I catch a glimpse of a root, reaching out, like a begging hand, and somehow know that this is one sweet potato I cannot get rid of because it reminds me of my mom.

Mom had a particular fondness for simple plants. I cannot pass by a stand of morning glories without tearing up, and I cannot throw away a sweet potato that has sprouted a root, because those were my mom’s two favorite plants. Morning glories grew prolifically out by mom’s back door, their purple and blue flowers trumpeting their vibrant beauty only briefly and yet gloriously in the cool of the morning.

Her sweet potato plants brought a deep green jungle of trailing vines and giant leaves into our home, adding a living breathing feeling to the otherwise inanimate furnishings. She would show me an aging sweet potato, pointing out the tiny roots reaching out of their eyes and say, “We’ll put this one in a jar.”

Mom wasn’t fond of prepared food, but the occasional purchase of a big jar of applesauce, once emptied and cleaned, eventually became home for a sweet potato plant. The top of those applesauce jars were just the right size to cradle the potato, roots-down of course, in plenty of water. It was always a glass jar. Mom said that the potato roots liked the light that shown through the jar, but I think it was just as much that the wad of twining roots were an entertaining proof of life that grew so fast you could almost see their movement.

What was really magic was the sprouting of emerald green vines and leaves that grew out of the opposite top-end of the potato. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that color of green in any other plant, or perhaps it just seems unique and mysterious to me because what was once a plant became food, then back to a plant, right before my eyes. The green of the leaves were so rich that they made you feel special just looking at them, as if they were giving you a gift and saying, “Thank you for letting me live again.”

But sadly, the day always came, as it does for every living thing, when it had cycled its life. The plant would stop producing vines and tea saucer-sized leaves, the water around the roots would cloud, and it was over.

I have a sweet potato plant growing on the window shelf above my kitchen sink right now. A potato that didn’t make it to our plates, but which beckoned to me as I picked it up to toss it into the compost bin with it seeming to say “I can make a beautiful plant for you if you will give me a chance,” and I think of mom and I do.


  1. I remember that. Your sister--my mom--carried on the tradition. As I recall, 3 or 4 toothpicks into the potato supported it on the rim of the jar. Hadn't thought about that in years.

  2. We often had a sweet-potato plant growing in our house. I didn't know that she got it from her mom. She also enjoyed the simple flowers. It was a family joke that you couldn't ride anywhere in the car with her without her exclaiming, "Oh, look at the beautiful flowers!" I'm happy to say that I enjoy the same affliction. I count my morning glories every morning before work. I would count my sunflowers but there are too many. Thank you Mommie Wade, and mother, for this gift. And thank you, Sue, for showing yet another connection. Cameel

  3. Sweet memories of Sweet Potato's. Thank you