DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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17 November 2009

Growing sweet potatoes

We've recently planted three sweet potato plants. We have the golden one but there are also white and purple types. Sweet potatoes are a very good crop to grow if you're in a warm climate. They won't grow in the cold. You can easily grow sweet potato from a store bought tuber. You should buy an organic tuber not only because often the others have been sprayed to prevent them from sprouting, but also because it will be a healthier living tuber. Pick a healthy looking sweet potato that is unmarked and firm. When you get it home, place it in a warm and sunny spot and wait for it to produce shoots. This could take anywhere between a couple of days to a month, depending on how warm the weather is. When you see the shoots, you'll know that the weather is warm enough to plant.



Two weeks before you plant, choose a sunny spot with good drainage and enrich the soil with compost and aged manure that is dug in, watered and allowed to sit. When you're ready to plant, cut the sweet potato into pieces depending on how many shoots are growing. If you only have one growing point, don't cut, but if you have two, cut in two, if three, divide it in three. Try to give all the growing points enough tuber from which to grow.


Our sweet potatoes - the first shoots showing on 5 November.

Make a hollow in the soil about 8 or 9 cm/3 inches deep and place your tubers in, with the shoots to the top. You'll need about 30 cm/12 inches between each cutting. Pack the soil in around the tuber, leaving the shoots exposed. Water in with seaweed tea and cover with a straw mulch. Sweet potatoes like to be watered in well, but after that they don't need a lot of water. If it rains, don't water, but water once a week if you have no rain. Repeat the seaweed tea every month to keep the plants healthy and growing well.


This morning - 12 days after the previous photo, the shoots are growing well.

The biggest problem you're likely to have with sweet potatoes is that the vines will take over the garden. We are going to grow ours over the top of the chook house to help protect it from the summer heat. If you find the vines are taking over, cut them back a bit. Don't cut them off completely, but you could easily take of a third of the growth.

Sweet potatoes are a fairly easy crop to grow and they're a good staple food to add to your diet. You can use them in any recipe to replace potatoes - to top a Shepherd's Pie , as chips or mash, or baked, golden and delicious in the oven. Classified as one of the super vegetables, they are a significant antioxidant and contain vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, copper, manganese, vitamin E, vitamin B6 and beta carotene. They are a good food for diabetics and for people with arthritis and other inflammatory disease.

When you harvest your sweet potatoes, be very careful not to bruise or cut the skin. Any damaged tubers should be the first eaten. Cure the remaining perfect tubers by drying them in a cool dry place, not the fridge. They are cured properly when you can't rub the skin off with your finger. Long term storage should be in the coolest room in your house, pack the tubers in baskets lined with newspaper and cover the basket with a towel. This allows the tubers to breath without sweating. Home grown sweet potatoes won't rot as quickly as the store bought ones.

If you live in a warm climate and are just coming into the end of spring, you can plant your sweet potatoes now. They should be ready to harvest in about 16 weeks time - early March.

Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Curry

Thanksgiving Sweet Potato recipes

27 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post! I've been considering growing sweet potatoes, but my hubby cannot stand them. I've won him over onto salad and rice however (a big accomplishment!), so maybe I can try incorporating these into dishes somehow. Maybe I'll plant just a couple... and sneak them into a casserole. We have a lot of space so I'm sure I could find a spot for them to ramble. I love all your posts but the ones on gardening are especially helpful. Do you have any recipes for sweet potatoes?
    The Girl in the Pink Dress

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  2. Oh, silly me, I see you DID post some recipes! Thank you!
    The Girl in the Pink Dress

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  3. Good post Rhonda and very timely as I'm beginning to plan my kitchen garden next year.

    I love sweet potatoes but was always put off growing them as I'd heard they are tough to grow in the UK. Now I'm wondering if that's an old wive's tale and maybe I should have a go.

    And I never knew they grew in vines...I always thought they grew like normal potatoes!

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  4. Hi Rhonda

    I read this post with interest and then clicked on your "Neighbours" post. Which i really loved. I am one of those people like yourself who likes to know their neighbours, too.

    I also received some loofa seeds from you earlier in the year and they are starting to sprout now. I'm looking forward to them fruiting etc.
    cheers and thanks for your blog....I'm off to make soap now!
    Serena.

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  5. I bought some sweet potatoes about 8 weeks ago from an online organic supplier, they only came with the vine part which was fairly small, no roots, and only one leaf out of the 4 plants, they were not attached to the tuber. We had a lot of rain after I planted them and they rotted. It was a very unsuccessful first attempt at growing sweet potatoes. I don't know if I did something wrong, I'd not seen a plant in this form before.

    Maybe I'll give it another go and try and sprout some myself. I love sweet potatoes, they are so delicious!

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  6. I adore sweet potato and grew some kumara last year. We put them in the potting shed to cure and went in to check them after a week and the whole lot ( and there were loads) had been eaten by rats. We got not a single one. We were so upset. :(

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  7. Ahh thank you Rhonda for this post. I have heard that you can eat the leaves as a green, have you done this yourself? Now, to get some sweet potatoes and get growing, I guess hubby will be digging some more gardens this weekend! LOL.

    Susieq.

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  8. Sweet Potatoe eh!!!!!! Would you like some? DH has them growing by the ton. We have been digging them up for a few weeks allready. If I can get my act together I will post a few photos in the "Growing Vegetables and Herbs" section in the forum. We have 3 variaties. The most common one is the orange one and in my opinion the nicest. Then the next one you'll see in the shops is the purple skin with white flesh and the last one is one we got from some Fijian friends which is white skin and a purple flesh. This one is nice also with a slightly more nuttier flavour. I cook this one with some onion , curry powder, chick peas, or green peas, and pour over a can coconut cream. Let it simmer away till potatoes are cooked. Just yummy as a meal on it's own.
    BTW Rhonda, many thanks for replying to my SOS yesterday in the forum re- the Tuna Loaf. The end result got the thumbs up from DH, so I am allowed to make it again. Lololo

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  9. Sweet potatoes are yum. We live in the midst of such locations in the states, that LOVE them...many grown here and always in the store, year around. Hubby and I are on a special diet for awhile, but are allowed up to 1/2 sweet potato per day. I bake them ahead in the oven (with skins on and it preserves their flavor so well)...cool in frige till wanted. Then slice and SLOWLY saute in a pan with oil or butter or both. Cook until the outside kind of caramelizes and turns somewhat crispy. TASTES LIKE CANDY!!
    Elizabeth

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  10. Deer ate our sweet potato vines and our peas this year! We still had a great garden inspite of them & now we have deer in the freezer for winter.

    Wimberlyfamilyfarm.blogspot.com

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  11. I tried growing them in my greenhouse this summer but the season just is not long enough here in Powell River. I did get a tuber but it was just the width of a finger. I love sweet potatoes and they are so good for you.

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  12. I have just discovered your blog and will definitely be following it. I also live in Queeensland, but way up north (just north of Cairns) - I think you live further south? I planted some sweet potatoes from a couple of slips a friend gave me. They are doing really well - did you know that you can stir fry the shoots that you trimm off?

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  13. Thanks Rhonda! I just bought 20 lbs of sweet potatoes from the farmers market and I've been wondering how I ought to store them. As always, you are an excellent resource.

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  14. Sweet potato leaves are part of Southeast Asian menu. Here is the recipe link: http://www.kuali.com/recipes/viewrecipe.asp?r=1121

    You'll find about 20 sweet potato-based recipes when you search "sweet potato" on the same website.

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  15. What a timely post. We had roast sweet potato for tea and I said to my hubby 'we should grow sweet potato, I wonder how?'. He said 'look it up on the 'net!'
    Now we know!

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  16. Oh how I would love to grow sweet potatoes but not in our zone I'm sure.
    We love baked sweet potato fries! I'm always looking for new recipes. Thank you Rhonda!

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  17. If all goes well, how many sweet potatoes do you get from one sweet potato plant? I have often wanted to plant these, but was unsure how many to plant. Thanks!

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  18. I think I'll try growing some sweet potatoes next spring, it's too cold here in the winter as we can get it below freezing for a few weeks at a time until the end of February.

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  19. You can eat the leaves of the sweet potatoes as well. They are edible unlike the normal potatoes.

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  20. Yay for sweet p8os. Yes you can eat the leaves. We grow the purple ones too.

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  21. Can you grow sweet potatoes in a pot, I live close to the sea and also mud flats, the soil I have is sandy, while things grow, they don't seem to flourish, which I guess is also good as they don't need as much pruning, the good and the bad.

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    Replies
    1. Off the top of my head, I'd say no but I guess if you had a big enough pot and lived in a warm climate, anything is possible.

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  22. I live in Australia and currently it's summer here. I've just read your post and I'd love to give it a try but after reading the time frame of planting it's probably too late to plant. Can I just confirm with you what you think? Regards Fiona

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  23. Have you tried cooking the sweet potato leaves? - harvest the leaves - and cut off the stem - stir fry in a hot pan - the water used to wash the leaves will be enough to steam them, but a little splash of chinese wine or sherry is good too. The taste is amazing - like sweet potato : )

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  24. I find your way of growing sweet potato much different than mine. I usually take five good tubers and suspend them in a quart jar full of water. Just stick three tooth picks in each one to suspend them. Soon roots grow out of the tubers and shoots start growing from all over the top of the tuber. When the slips get about 4-5 inches long they are pulled from the tuber. I put the slips in a glass of water and set it on the window sill. Soon all of the slips are rooted. I then pot all of the slips with dirt in styrofoam cups where they stay until it is warm enough outside to plant them in the ground. By that time the roots are well established in the dirt and there is no shock at transplanting. I usually get 100-125 slips from the five tubers. I'm in Ohio so I start this whole process on March 15th every year. I pile up the dirt and make ridges to plant the tubers in. I am growing sweet potatoes that have been in the family for at least 75 years.

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  25. Village Gardener's "how to grow" message above is good for planting, but in my section of the United States, (Virginia) a very similar method is used to grow a house plant from sweet potatoes. Get a potato that isn't sprayed, if possible, choose the container you want to grow it in, stick three toothpicks near the top part of the sides of the potatoes to hold the plant-to-be about half above the water line. Fill the container until just over a fourth of the bottom of the potato is in water. Set it in a dark, cool place and keep the roots that will soon be growing in the water. At the same time, the shoots will begin to grow on the top and soon you will have green vines. My mama usually kept one growing on top of the refrigerator in the kitchen and I associate these with the good memories of my childhood.

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