The environmentally aware ex-pat American living in the UK may want to produce a home cooked Thanksgiving Day dinner using British grown produce to help reduce food miles. The most difficult traditional Thanksgiving dish to source is a UK grown sweet potato. In fact, probably the only way to do so is to plan well ahead and grow your own.
UK Sweet Potato Farming Not Viable Even for Thanksgiving
The sweet potato cannot be grown commercially in the UK says vegetable supplier Barfoots of Botley although, according to the UK farming watchdog DEFRA, the company did try its hand at commercial sweet potato growing in 2000. Presumably it was found to be non-viable because Barfoots now appears to source its sweet potatoes from America, Israel or New Zealand depending upon the time of year.
The famous UK High Street store Marks & Spencer has also been experimenting with sweet potatoes in the UK since 2007. The first British grown sweet potatoes appeared in their shops just in time for Thanksgiving of that year. Whilst this tropical vegetable continues to be the subject of research and development M&S’ business report for 2009 notes that “attempts to extend UK seasons for watercress and sweet potatoes have not produced good results so far.”
Grow Your Own Sweet Potatoes for a UK Thanksgiving Dinner
With so much uncertainty about the probability of finding British grown sweet potatoes on any supermarket or greengrocer shelf in November, or any other time of the year for that matter, the only sensible thing to do, for a food mile friendly traditional Thanksgiving Dinner in Britain, is to plan well ahead and grow your own. Even if you only grow enough for one meal, it’ll be worth it.
The best sweet potato to grow in the UK, according to several online gardening and allotment holder forums, is the T65. This is a particularly hardy variety which is suitable for growing outside in the warmer areas of the UK such as Devon and Dorset – but it can be successfully grown in a greenhouse or a cloche in more northerly parts of the UK.
Plant sweet potato slips out in May or June when the risk of frost has passed and with carefully nurturing, watering and feeding, the first tubers should be ready to eat around about October. Once harvested, leave them in a warm, dark place to allow their skin to cure and then store in a dry, cooler place until they are required for that Thanksgiving Day dinner made using UK grown products.