There are perhaps two times a year that families try to cook traditional Eastern Shore food. One is when you have to bring a dish to the family reunion and second is Thanksgiving. So this is the time of the year when people are planning and shopping for the Thanksgiving dinner. Deciding how many muskrats to buy, where is that corn pudding recipe, where is that English Grill sweet potato biscuit recipe, where to get the best turnips and greens, where is Uncle Carl’s corn bread recipe, finding a can with a label for the green bean casserole recipe, how many gallons of dumplings to make, trying to find a good price on oysters, deciding should you include sauerkraut for the Baltimore woman your son married who feels that strange dish belongs on a Thanksgiving table. The list goes on and let’s face it you can never have too many starches at a Thanksgiving dinner.
It is also the time of year when the search for Hayman sweet potatoes is in full throttle. Haymans ARE the traditional Eastern Shore sweet potato. A small gnarly shaped white skinned, light green fleshed potato that has become difficult to find. Good ones are so sweet they drip sticky black sap from their ends when baked
What is known as Haymans arrived in the United States via the West Indies in 1856, when Capt. Daniel Hayman sailed into Elizabeth City, North Carolina, with a cargo of semitropical white sweet potatoes in his hold. A Methodist minister bought the lot of them and distributed them through a network of Methodist preachers. Since Methodists were dominant on the Eastern Shore and the sandy, slightly acidic soil is prime for growing sweet potatoes.
Today due to low production of the Hayman and a weakening of the seed stock, finding them is difficult. When you do find them frequently the taste that made them so well loved is gone. You are most likely to find an O Henry Sweet potato, an almost close rival of the Hayman or a Nancy Hall sweet potato – both are good but still not Haymans.
above 1942 ad
above from albemarle enquirer 07 nov 1878
Interesting comment in the above article about if his children were boys being voters- this was of course before women were given the right to vote