Holiday events and sweet potato biscuits

Published 5:08 pm Thursday, December 3, 2015

few days ago we received a package from “home,” the Eastern Shore of Virginia, filled with those delicious Hayman sweet potatoes. My high school classmate C. L. Downing and his wife, Elaine, of Birdsnest, had sent us some Haymans grown by Will and Elizabeth Smith on their farm about two miles south of Exmore. They had been dug on Oct. 20, cured, and shipped. Julian wants to try his hand at raising some of these heirloom potatoes next summer.

Legend has it that in 1856 Captain Daniel Hayman coaxed his ship the Harriet Ryan into the docks at Elizabeth City, N.C. Sailing from the West Indies, he had some semitropical white sweet potatoes stowed in the holds of his ship. 

A local Methodist minister whose name has been lost to time hurried aboard the ship and bought the entire load.

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The potato dubbed the Hayman spread quickly through the network of Methodist preachers along the East Coast.

Methodism was prominent on the Eastern Shore, and the Hayman potato took hold with the locals who farmed the dark rich sandy loam soil. 

The heirloom potato requires a long growing season, is susceptible to disease and yields inconsistently from year to year. At harvest time, usually late October, the small Hayman has a milky white skin that is veined and bumpy. Inside the flesh has a faint greenish cast and the texture is slightly fibrous.

However, its intense, starchy sweetness with a hint of minty flavor keeps its lovers coming back year after year, and a handful of Eastern Shore farmers still raise them.

Most people away from the coastline of Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina are not used to seeing these white sweet potatoes on the produce shelves next to the orange varieties such as Beauregard, Covington, Puerto Rican, or Hernandez.

Customers are not familiar with the Hayman that has a tendency to exude sugar as a viscous black fluid. For those familiar with the variety it is a sign that the potato has been properly cured. 

A fellow Longwood College alumni Martha Middleton Simpson, still living on the Shore, has posted her “MaMa’s Sweet Potato Biscuit” recipe on several sites on the Internet. 

MaMa’s Sweet

Potato Biscuits

(Recipe used by Sallye Silverthorn Middleton 1885-1970)

—1 heaping cup mashed sweet potatoes
—2 T. sugar (may add more if desire them sweeter)
—1 tsp. salt
—½ c. shortening
—3 c. flour
—3 tsp. “yeast powder” (baking powder)

Boil potatoes in skins, peel, and mash. Add sugar, salt, and shortening to warm potatoes. Sift flour and yeast powder together. Add to potato mixture. Add water to make consistency of biscuit dough. Knead a few times to make smooth. Form into biscuits. Bake at 450 degrees about 12-15 minutes until light brown. – GHOTES (Genealogy & Historie Of The Eastern Shore) of Virginia

Community Communiqué

All are invited to have breakfast with Santa Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at Piney Ridge United Methodist Church. Create crafts to remember your special morning in Santa’s Workshop. This is a Relay for Life event, so all donations go to the American Cancer Society. Photographs will be taken.

Santa will arrive at the Pamplin Depot at noon Saturday. He will be there until 2 p.m. with toys and goodies.

Farm Use String Band will sponsor the monthly free dance at the Pamplin Depot Saturday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The theme is Winter Wonderland.

Visit with Civil War era Santa at the Catalpa Inn, 373 Catalpa Lane, Prospect, on Saturday, Dec. 12, from 1-4 p.m. Bring your camera. The visit is sponsored by the Catalpa Inn and the Prospect Historical Society.

The Pamplin Combined Community Choir, under the direction of Beverly Cyrus, will present the Christmas cantata “Breath of Heaven” on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 4 p.m. in the Pamplin Depot followed by refreshments by the Pamplin Area Legacy Supporters (PALS).

The Christmas play “A Tree Lot Christmas” will be presented at Glenn Memorial Baptist Church on Dec. 13.

Sheri Hicks, of High Point, N.C., visited her parents Kenneth and Bettye Brisentine for Thanksgiving, arriving Tuesday and returning home on Friday.

Hilda Allen had Thanksgiving Day lunch with Elfrieda Kerns.

Please keep the following people in your thoughts and prayers: Joyce Floyd, Alice Campbell, Julian Covington, John Hix, Nancy Dickerson, Martha Whitehead, Dorothy Womack, Kenneth Brisentine, Betty Jean Bolt, and Gary Fiscus.

“Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” – Oren Arnold

If you have any news, call Edwina Covington (434) 574-6576.

EDWINA COVINGTON is a retired teacher and columnist for Elam. Her email is