‘Hi, I’m Regan.’ A friendly-looking lady stretches out her hand to us. Wait a minute, a lady? Yexi looks a little surprised. Do women grow potatoes here? They sure do! Because this farm belongs to Regan and her father Robert. They're already the third and fourth generations to grow sweet potatoes in North Carolina. And, sure enough, when Americans do something, it's bound to be big. This father-and-daughter farm covers no fewer than 3,000 hectares. Enough to grow a goodly number of sweet potatoes!
Robert and Regan could just as easily have grown cotton on their farm...or other crops grown on fields like soybeans, corn, wheat or peanuts. After all, sweet potatoes didn't get off to a good start on the family farm. ‘The first year was a disaster', says Robert, remembering. ‘The crop was practically worthless. Actually, we wanted to start growing something else, but we kept at it anyway.’ ‘And a good thing we did!', adds Regan. ‘Since then, the sweet potato has increased in prominence. In fact, the sweet potato is the most important reason that our business is growing each year!’
'In the Netherlands, we're in favour of sustainable farming. What about you?' Yexi wants to know. The two growers are quick to agree. ‘It’s the same here’, says Robert. ‘By changing our cultivation methods, we need to use far less in the way of crop protection agents. And we share our knowledge with agriculture students. We're also interested in helping others: our business actively supports good causes that help people in need.'
That's something we like to hear at Discovered. Corporate responsibility is also important to us. That's why more and more sweet potatoes are making their way from North Carolina to the Netherlands. 'What's your favourite way of preparing sweet potatoes?' we ask Robert: ‘There's lots of different ways. You can make French fries or potato chips with them. And I know that Regan is really good at making casseroles and soufflés with sweet potatoes. You can even use them in desserts.’
Aha, Yexi imagines, That’ll be me joining Regan this evening for a casserole. His mouth waters at the thought of it. It might be a good idea to keep some on hand at home. ‘If you do, be sure to store them right', Regan says with a serious face. How? ‘In a cool dry place with good ventilation – like a cellar. Robert: ‘You can also bake six to eight potatoes on a baking sheet in the oven, let them cool, and then freeze them in a plastic bag. They'll keep for a long time that way. And, whenever you're hungry, you'll always have sweet potato ready to go!’
Hash is a typical American potato dish which is often made using grated potatoes with leftover meat and vegetables. This one is made with diced sweet potato. Americans often eat hash at breakfast, lunch or dinner. It's a favourite with our farmer Regan!