All About Sweet Potatoes
May is officially time to begin thinking about all the things in the garden that love the hot summer. Sweet potatoes are at the top of our family list, next to tomatoes, as a priority. Sweet potatoes are so tasty and such a great storage vegetable that we can eat through the cold months. They are easy to grow and add variety and color to our diet. Did you know that the leaves are edible and provide nice greens in the hotter summer months? Fantastic!
Our varieties provide a wonderful selection of different types of these sweet tubers. Our white fleshed sweet potato is O’Henry. It is a bit dryer in texture, all the better to handle the creamy additions of a sweet potato pie recipe! We carry two organic varieties All Purple and Puerto Rico. All Purple is a purple fleshed variety that is less sweet than your standard store bought sweet potato and has all the nutrients that the bright purple color belies. Both Puerto Rico and Beauregard are more typical sweet potatoes with copper and orange flesh, respectively.
My suggestion is to grow some of all of them! What a colorful bounty you will have come next fall when you store these amazing tubers. They are a root vegetable roasters delight.
How To Grow Your Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are sold as slips in May (come by the store to pick some up!). If you pre-ordered them, they will be shipped to you in May. They are best planted in your soil when it is WARM! Roughly 3-4 weeks after the last frost date. Plant the slips up to leaves (3-5 inches deep) in rows 3-4 feet apart. Within the row give plants 12-18 inches between them, these plants like their space. After two weeks of growing, you can mulch the plants to moderate moisture and keep down weeds. Sweet potatoes don’t like competition so weeds should be kept down until the vines themselves cover the ground. Occasionally you may lift the long vines to prevent adventitious rooting at their nodes. Where the plant roots it will attempt to grow more tubers, taking much needed nutrients and energy away from the main crop.
Water moderately if the summer is dry but do not overwater this crop! Our sweet tubers like it dry. Abstain from watering at all the last 3-4 weeks your crop is in the ground. This will prevent splitting of the ripening tubers. Tubers can be harvested once the leaves turn yellow. Dig them carefully – any damage to the skin invites rot. Let them lie in the sun to dry out and then gently brush off excess soil.
Curing Your Sweet Potatoes
Once the tubers are dug cure them for two weeks in a high humidity and high heat (well ventilated). The recommended temperature for curing is 85-90°. An attic or barn would do nicely. Once the potatoes are cured they should be stored in a cool dry place like a basement with low humidity. This way they will last several months. Keep an eye out for any spoilage to prevent losing the whole lot. Don’t stress about curing—the top of your refrigerator in an un-airconditioned house has worked for me. Just remember, hot and humid, then cool and dry for the long term.