What a Sweet Surprise!

Rob Beddingfield holds his 30.4-pound sweet potato he harvested in October 2022.



Rob Beddingfield isn’t a farmer. He is, however, an amateur gardener who pulled something extra “sweet” from his most recent harvest.

Beddingfield was pleasantly surprised this October when he pulled a 30.4-pound sweet potato from his personal garden. The monstrous, disfigured-looking root vegetable is thought be one of the state’s largest ever, although there is no real telling because the Alabama Extension Office does not keep records for sweet potatoes.

While it doesn’t quite measure up to the 81.9-pound sweet potato that set the Guinness World Record in 2008, Beddingfield’s sweet starch was big enough to win first place at the Lee County Fair, and is a sight to behold.

“I figured that I would get some big ones but I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “It’s a little bit unwieldy to do much with.”

Beddingfield said he grew his sweet potato crop from May to October. Altogether, it produced over 50 pounds of sweet potato.

“It pretty much went the whole growing season through the summer,” he explained.

Beddingfield said he had no intentions of growing a sweet potato of such grand proportions, and that he did not do anything special during the maturation process. It’s his belief that the nature of his no-till, mulch garden may have contributed to the crop’s exponential growth.

“It’s kind of a different kind of garden,” he said. “It had made some really big sweet potatoes in the past, but this one was the biggest so far. It’s possible this one came from a sweet potato that was already in the ground from last year. That may have had something to do with why it was so thick, because it had a long time to grow and just came up naturally. It was just the pretty much basic way that you would grow sweet potato. I think it was just kind of the soil, and conditions just happened to be just right in this one location, so it’s kind of more a matter of luck, I guess.”

Beddingfield said he modeled his garden after the book “The Weedless Garden” by Lee Reich. And he said he’s found the key to growing a successful sweet potato is keeping the critters away.

“One thing I have learned from growing these sweet potatoes is … is keeping the deer and rabbits from eating them,” he said. “If you can keep them from eating the leaves, then that is about the only way to get some decent sweet potatoes.”

With more sweet potato than he knows what to do with, Beddingfield is now looking forward to finding creative ways to eat his yield.

“People ask me, ‘Is it going to be edible?’ and yeah, they turn out pretty well even when they get that big,” he said.

Beddingfield’s current favorite way to prepare sweet potatoes is by frying them in the skillet. His favorite way to eat them is in his breakfast burritos.

“It goes really well with sausage for sure,” he said. “But I imagine we have so many we are going to have to do some sweet potato casserole this Thanksgiving season.”

In the spirit of Beddingfield’s agricultural accomplishment, The Observer has included below a few sweet potato recipes from Ann Cipperly to try this holiday season.

Southern Candied Yams

4 medium cooked sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 to 1/2 cup butter

Grease 2 qt. pan. Put sliced potatoes in pan. Mix sugars well. Put pat of butter on sweet potatoes. Sprinkle sugars on top of potatoes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until bubbly. After 15 minutes, spoon syrup sauce over yams.

Sweet potato pie with marshmallow fluff topping

Sweet Potato Pie

3 to 4 large sweet potatoes (3 ½ cups)

4 eggs

½ cup butter, softened

½ tsp. nutmeg

2 cups sugar

½ tsp. salt

1 tall can (12 oz.) evaporated milk

3 regular 9-inch or 2 deep-dish unbaked pie shells.

Cook sweet potatoes in boiling water until they are easily pierced with a fork. Remove from water, cool slightly. Remove skins; place hot cooked and peeled potatoes in large mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer until smooth.

Beat in remaining ingredients. Pour into unbaked piecrusts. Place pans on cookie sheet. Bake in 425-degree oven for 20 minutes; lower heat to 325 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer or until knife inserted comes out clean.

Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes

8 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced

1 cup orange juice

2 Tbsp. grated orange rind

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 tsp. salt

Place sweet potato slices in large pan; add water to cover. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to medium and simmer 20 minutes or until tender; drain. Let cool.

Arrange slices in a greased 9 by 13-inch baking dish.

Combine remaining ingredients in saucepan. Boil one minute. Pour mixture over potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Can be prepared ahead but do not bake. Refrigerate until ready to bake. Let stand for 30 minutes. Bake as directed. Serves 8.


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