Sweet Potato

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Botanical name: Ipomoea batatas

Plant type: Vegetable

USDA Hardiness Zones: 9, 10, 11

Sun exposure: Full Sun

Soil type: Loamy

Soil pH: Neutral


Flower color: Purple

Bloom time: Summer

The sweet potato is a warm-season, spreading vegetable of tropical origin. It is a good choice for a garden because it is easy to grow, is drought- / heat-tolerant, and has few pests or diseases. The sweet potato is also very nutritious and low in calories.

Planting

  • Sweet potatoes are grown from slips, which are sprouts that are grown from stored sweet potatoes. You can buy slips from garden centers, nurseries, or local farmers.
  • You can also grow your own slips to plant in the spring. In November (this is when the best of the new harvest will be out), go to your supermarket and look for unblemished and uncracked medium sweet potatoes. One potato should yield about 12 plants.
  • Store these potatoes in a well-lit room with a temperature between 65° and 70°F. Keep them there until about 90 days before the last spring frost date. They will then need to be embedded in soil for 90 days and kept continuously warm and moist.
  • Use a 1-1/2 gallon pot for every two potatoes. Remember to poke drainage holes in the bottom of the pot and fill it with 3 inches of mulch followed by garden or potting soil. Plant the potatoes in the pot at a 45° angle so that the sprouts will grow above the soil. When the slips are 6 to 12 inches tall, you can plant them outdoors as long as all danger of frost has passed.
  • After you have grown your own slips or bought them, till area of the garden you will be using to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Create raised beds 6 to 8 inches tall and about 12 inches wide. Use fertile, well-drained soil.
  • Plant the slips 12 to 18 inches apart in the bed, after the last spring frost date. Plant the slips deep enough to cover the roots and about 1/2 inch of the stem. Water the slips with a starter solution that is high in phosphorous, then water generously for a few days to make sure that the plants root well.

Care

  • Side-dress the potatoes 3 to 4 weeks after transplanting with 3 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 100 feet of row. If you have sandy soil, use 5 pounds.
  • Hoe the beds occasionally to keep weeds down. Remember to reshape the beds with soil or mulch.
  • For good harvests, do not prune the vines, because they should be vigorous.
  • Remember to keep the potatoes watered. Deep watering in hot, dry periods will help to increase yields, although if you are planning to store some of the potatoes, do not give the plants extra water late in the season.

Pests

  • Flea beetles
  • Sweet potato scurf
  • White blister
  • Fungal leaf rot
  • Stem rot

Harvest/Storage

  • You can start digging up the potatoes as soon as they are big enough for a meal. Often, this is three to four months from when you planted the slips. The leaves should have started to yellow, but you can leave them in the ground up until the fall frost.
  • Since the roots spread 4 to 6 inches deep in the soil, a spade fork is useful when digging up the potatoes.
  • Handle the potatoes carefully because they bruise easily.
  • After digging up the potatoes, shake off any excess dirt but no not wash the roots.
  • If you want to store sweet potatoes for an extended period of time, you must cure them. Curing the potatoes allows a second skin to form over scratches and bruises that occur when digging up the potatoes. To cure, keep the roots in a warm place (about 80°F) at high humidity (about 90%) for 10 to 14 days. For best curing, make sure that the potatoes are not touching one another.
  • After curing, throw out any bruised potatoes, and then wrap each one in newspaper and pack them carefully in a wooden box or basket.
  • Store the sweet potatoes in a root cellar or other place with a temperature of at least 55°F. The ideal temperature range is 55° to 60°F.
  • The roots should last for about 6 months. When removing the potatoes from storage, remember to be gentle; do not dig around or else you will bruise the potatoes.

Recommended Varieties

  • 'Centennial', which is one of the most popular types of sweet potato. It is carrot-color and has a good storage life. It is also a good producer for northern growers.
  • 'Jewel', which is copper-color and has good disease resistance. It also has a good storage life.
  • 'Bunch Porto Rico', which is a good choice for gardens with limited space. It is copper-color and very flavorful.

Recipes

Cooking Notes

To the cook, sweet potatoes are easier than pie.

  • They can simply be scrubbed, poked with a fork in a few places, and baked at 400°F for 35 minutes to one hour, until they give a bit when you squeeze them in your pot-holder-protected hand.
  • In the microwave, a whole sweet potato baked on high should be ready in 4 to 6 minutes. It may still feel firm when done; let it stand 5 minutes to soften.
  • Sweet potatoes can also be steamed whole, cleaned and unpeeled, for about 40 minutes or until tender, or cooked whole, cleaned and unpeeled, in boiling salted water for about 35 minutes. (Boiling reduces the flavor considerably.)
  • Immerse cut raw sweet potatoes in water until you're ready to cook them; they will darken otherwise.

As a general rule, don't substitute sweet potatoes for regular potatoes in recipes; the two aren't related. Sweet potatoes don't hold together the way potatoes do, and their strong flavor can overwhelm a dish meant for a milder potato taste. But they make a fine substitute for pumpkin, especially in desserts.

Wit & Wisdom

Sweet potatoes will retain their color if cooked with a slice of lemon.

Comments

"Side-dress" Not familiar

By Daniel Casey on July 14

"Side-dress" Not familiar with this word or term. What does this mean?

Also, I've read the vine leaves are stable and actually ate one. Although their taste is starchy, it was tender and mildly flavored.

Does the vine produce more sweet potatoes as it grows?

How much room or slips does it take for enough potatoes to feed a family of 4 for a month?

:)

Sorry Correction "Stable" to

By Daniel Casey on July 14

Sorry Correction "Stable" to Edible...

"Side-dress" means to apply

By Almanac Staff on July 15

"Side-dress" means to apply fertilizer on or in the soil near the roots of a plant.
 
Sweet potato leaves are edible to humans, but regular potato leaves are not (different plant family). Sweet potato vines are listed by the ASPCA as toxic to dogs, cats, horses, and some other animals.
 
The plant may form tuberous roots (the sweet potatoes) along the length of the vine in sections that have developed normal roots. A tuberous root is a thickened modified root, and contains buds on one end, which will develop stems and leaves in the spring; the other end will form tiny roots.
 
As for how many to plant, it depends on how many sweet potatoes your family will eat. :-) Sweet potatoes will yield about 8 to 12 pounds per 10-foot row.

I put potato in a cup and

By nancy luse on July 3

I put potato in a cup and it is growing long vines. Can this be planted and how.
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I put sweet potato in a cup

By nancy luse on July 3

I put sweet potato in a cup of water and it is growing long vines from it. Can it be planted?

When is a good time to start

By Joseph Mukura on July 3

When is a good time to start growing sweet potatoes in the uk

im sorry if i seem dumb, does

By gill

im sorry if i seem dumb, does the potatoe grow above ground on plant or in the ground like long island potatoes

No worries. Sweet potatoes

By Almanac Staff

No worries. Sweet potatoes grow under the ground. 

I live Ontario and am

By henryenn henr.enns@gmail.com

I live Ontario and am trying to grow sweet pototes for the first time. We have always enjoyed them in recipes and as sweet potato fries .

Thanks for the info. I have

By Patsy Olive

Thanks for the info. I have learned a lot today. Thank you. Patsy

Sweet Potato thrives very

By Bisiriyu O.Afolabi

Sweet Potato thrives very well in my locality Offa,Nigeria and it's environs.Could you kindly connect me to interested growers or business partners who may be keen in investing in massive growth of Sweet Potato in Nigeria.
My future plan is to cultivate Sweet Potato and turn into it's various nutritional values such as flour,chips,noddles and other food items.Thank you.

Thanks for the information

By Wesley Miller

Thanks for the information and looking forward for more info

If the temperature should be

By Jeremiah Tamez

If the temperature should be between 55 and 60 F what should the humidity be during long term storage.

Sweet potato roots are stored

By Almanac Staff

Sweet potato roots are stored between 55 and 60 degrees F with high relative humidity (>90%) for a storage life of 6 to 10 months.

I bought one little plant at

By LIANE

I bought one little plant at a plant sale just to try it in our climate---Powell River, BC Canada. I know it has potatoes as they came out of the ground and I hilled them up. The vines are really growing. Will they put down more roots and then more potatoes? Can I protect the vines over our usually pretty mild winters and keep the whole thing going or do I need to start over in the spring?
thanks, this is exciting.

Depending on the variety,

By Almanac Staff

Depending on the variety, sweet potato vines are hardy in zones 8 through 11. The vines will not survive in cold weather, but in climates free of frost, the tubers should survive the winter and sprout new vines come spring.

Please help me. I LIVE IN

By OVID P. MERCENE

Please help me. I LIVE IN SOUTHERN cALIFORNIA AND HAVE PLANTED SWEET POTATOES. DURING THIS WINTER THE PLANTS LEAVES HAVE TURNED YELLOW AND LEAVES DIED?. aRE THEY DEAD OR SHOULD I JUST LEAVE THEM THERE AND COME SPRING THESE VINES WILL SPROUT NEW LEAVES. PLEASE HELP I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THEM. THEY'VE SPREAD ON MY BACKYARD WITH ALL LEAVES NOW YELLOW THIS WINTER. SHOULD I JUST LEAVE THEM ALONE? PLEASE SENT ME THE ANSWER ON MY E MAIL. THANK YOU.

Did your field get hit by

By Almanac Staff

Did your field get hit by frost? If so, it's possible that they died. Look at the vines. Are they green/alive or brown and dead? To be safe, you may want to dig up the sweet potato tubers if they are in good shape and store for spring growing and prepare your soil for replanting.

Why do plant seeds grow on a

By Luv u

Why do plant seeds grow on a 45* angle???
Plz answer fast because my science fair depends on this

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