Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Last year we had a very poor crop. I planted too late, right before a dry spell, and the ground hogs thought the sweet potato plants were their buffet. Our crop of sweet potatoes was very small but my parents shared some of their sweet potatoes with us.
This year, I am starting my sweet potato plants much earlier. I plan to put a soaker hose along the hill for easy watering, and be vigilant against animals.
Sweet potatoes, unlike regular potatoes, are started with plants. You can grow your own plants by placing a sweet potato in water. I have two sweet potatoes in water right now. The one is just starting to grow fine roots and tiny sprouts. I wrote step-by-step directions on starting sweet potato plants here.
Sweet potatoes are grown on a hill of soil. Since they like warm weather, in my area, they are not planted until June. Last year, just for an experiment, I planted a whole sweet potato that already was sprouting leaves. It did not produce new sweet potatoes like the little sweet potato plants.
Sweet potato plants are harvested near the time of the first frost. Frost will blacken the leaves of the sweet potato plant. Of course, they will not continue to grow after a frost so they need dug immediately.
With proper curing (which I wrote about here) sweet potatoes will last all winter. The sweet potatoes that we just ate, were still in perfect condition. Sweet potatoes actually improve in flavor with time. Some people won't eat their sweet potatoes until after the New Year when the sweetness has increased.
Sweet potatoes are one of the simplest vegetables to store. Sweet potatoes don't need to be canned, frozen, or stored in a cold cellar. Since they are best stored in a cool room, my grandmother would wrap the sweet potatoes in newspaper and store them under her bed.
I love having stored sweet potatoes to eat in the winter. Sweet potatoes contain more vitamins than almost any other vegetable. We enjoy mashed sweet potato crunch as a treat over the holidays but our favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is oven roasted. Roasting brings out the sweetness. My children like when I cut them into french fry strips and serve with ketchup.
If you want more information on raising sweet potatoes, check out this article, Grow Sweet Potatoes - Even in the North. It gives lots of good information on raising and storing sweet potatoes.
Do you grow sweet potatoes? I'd love to hear your tips and recipes!