How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Sweet Potatoes
Relatively low in calories, sweet potatoes are very nutritious, a top source of beta-carotene, and contain some protein, calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, and other minerals. They can be stored longer than winter squash.
To cook, sweet potatoes are easier than pie (or sweet potato 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 about 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. Sweet potatoes are also not related to yams. But they make a fine substitute for pumpkin, especially in desserts.
Check out our ten best sweet potato recipes!
I have grown sweet potatoes in the past in straw bales and containers (my ground is too hard) and I mainly get many fingerlings, not useable sizes. What can I do to get fewer and bigger ones?
Hi, Beth, See the notes above, esp re “Planting.” You need soil that is rich in compost, airy, and sufficiently deep. Strawbales are not really suited and perhaps your container was not large enough and the soil in it) not rich enough. Note the advice re fertilizer above, too, e.g. heavy nitrogen and animal manures. Sweets also need four months of warm air and soil; perhaps your growing season is too short? Review the guidance above for other details. Good luck with them this year!
at the end of the season, do I dig them up? If they're in pots, do I just leave them in the pots until the next year?
Sweet potatoes can survive in the ground over the winter in warmer locations, but they do not tolerate cold weather, so it is mostly treated as an annual planting. Starting each growing season with a new slip (either purchased from a local garden center or nursery, or you can start your own) will likely give you a better result and hopefully a crop that will last well into the winter.
Are the leaves of the sweet potato edible? While we were in the military, we were stationed in Japan for 8 years. It appeared that the ate and sold the vines/ leaves in the grocery stores. Was it a different kind of sweet potato? They had a really good flavor. Thank you, Jody
I was wondering about companion planting in a 20 gal fabric pot.
What can you grow in the pot while growing sweet potatoes?
I read you can grow corn and beans in the fabric pot with potatoes at the same time.
Wanted to have the pot do double/triple duty as it were.
Hi, there, Surprisingly enough, there are a few things. We’ve grown sweets in ground and preferred to give them room to roam. But if you want to push the limits of your container, sources suggest beets, parsnips (note, however, that parsnips have a very long season), bush beans, and herbs such as thyme, oregano, and dill. You are advised to avoid squash as both it and sweets are strong, sprawling growers and will compete for space, which means neither reaches its full potential. Good luck!
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