This is what a sweet potato looks like when it’s been damaged by voles. Pretty ugly, eh? But other than the obvious cosmetic damage, there’s no harm to the sweet potato — you can trim off the damaged parts and use it as usual. Vole-damaged sweet potatoes even store just as well as perfect specimens. But of course a lot of people would be put off by the visual and pass these up in favor of more perfect-appearing sweets. So when you’re hitting the farmers’ markets at the end of the season, if you see some ugly sweet potatoes cheap, snap ’em up! They’re a bargain, and you’re rewarding a farmer for using organic methods.
I also had some excellent-looking young spinach in this week’s CSA box, and a few onions. I’d picked up some wonderful linguica from a local sausagemaker a few weeks earlier, and I always keep chicken stock in my freezer. It’s a blustery day here in Southwest Ohio, with the first sleet of the season. Soup seemed like the perfect choice. So I made one of my favorite rustic autumn soups: Linguica, Sweet Potato, and Spinach Chowder.
1 pound linguica
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds sweet potatoes, roughly chopped
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste
Heat 6-quart stock pot to medium high. Score linguica links and squeeze sausage out of the casings into hot pan; break apart with wooden spoon into small pieces. Add onions and garlic and fry until sausage is cooked through. Add sweet potatoes and cook fifteen minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes to an hour and a half, or until sweet potatoes start to fall apart. Add spinach and cook until wilted; correct seasonings; serve.