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By Wanda King from Deep South Homestead
How does coffee and sweet potatoes sound? Not something I would think to add together, but when I was sipping on my morning cup of coffee, I wondered what I would do if coffee weren’t available or became so expensive that I had to cut back or Heaven forbid, do without! So, to the internet I went on a search for coffee alternatives and what people did during the depression and civil war when coffee prices were high and income was low.
Today there are many substitutes for coffee like Yerba Matte and multitudes of teas. Most teas come from plants and those I already grow in my own edible landscape. I do enjoy my teas but I love my coffee first thing in the morning and Yerba Matte is costly. So, what would look, smell, and taste like coffee?
I looked through articles on the Great Depression and Civil War. Both periods of American history had information about what was used as coffee when the prices became so expensive that they had to look for alternatives. The most common substitutes used during the Civil War were acorns, okra, chicory, English peas, rye, wheat, barley, corn, and seeds from persimmons. But the one that was said to taste more like coffee and not be easily detected was the sweet potato. Plus, sweet potatoes were considered the poor man’s food. It was grown everywhere here in the south and many ate them every day. I was intrigued because we grow lots of sweet potatoes!
The recipe stated that you take sweet potatoes and peel them, cut them up into small pieces and dry them in the sun and then parch in the oven and grindthe same as coffee. Take two thirds of this to one third of coffee to a making. This is a way to stretch the coffee you have on hand, not a substitute or replacement for coffee. This seems simple enough, so I tried it.
I peeled and sliced sweet potatoes and placed them in an Excalibur dehydrator for 5 hours. Took them out and roasted them in the oven until brown. I didn’t want them to burn them, so I stopped at a medium roast. I used a coffee grinder to grind them into a fine powder. I was so surprised with the smell! IT SMELLED LIKE ROASTED COFFEE!
In my 10-cup stainless-steel percolator pot, I placed 2 tablespoon of coffee and 4 tablespoons of sweet potatoes in the strainer and filled it with water. As I watched the pot begin to perk, I noticed the smell and later the color of the coffee. Was this really gonna work? Would sweet potatoes really help me have more cups of coffee for my money?
That was the longest 20 minutes waiting on a pot of coffee to make! As I poured the “sweet potato coffee” I noticed the color. It looked like coffee. But what about the taste?
Because the pot boils the coffee, I had to take tiny sips. At that point, the taste was pleasing but I wasn’t able to determine with the sips if I would be satisfied with the results. I let the cup cool for 5 minutes and then drank. I liked it! Yes, this would help stretch my coffee if the expense of coffee became an issue. The taste was like a good old cup of coffee like my daddy made when I was a child, not the strong mocha, latte, expresso type coffee that is enjoyed today.
Coffee and sweet potatoes may sound like a crazy combination, but it is a real alternative. If something happens where I need to stretch my coffee supply, I would use roasted sweet potatoes that we grow to turn one pound of coffee into 3 pounds. The roasted smell reminds me of coffee. When pouring, the color looks like coffee. The taste is close enough to a mild cup of a cheaper brand of coffee. But it is so much easier and a lot more frugal to just give up coffee and drink teas from the fresh herbs I have growing in my yard.
Watch Wanda’s full video here:
Wanda King is co-owner of Deep South Homestead, a working farm, dedicated to teaching others to live off the land. She coordinates her daily routine with her videos on YouTube. Wanda is the crazy cook and candy corn collector from Mississippi. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her YouTube channel, Crazy Dazes.
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