GROWING SWEET POTATOES
WHY DO THEY MAKE SUCH A GOOD FRY?
Sweet potatoes grow underground like Irish potatoes, but that is the only similarity.
Growing: Sweet potatoes require a warm soil; do not try to plant them before the end of May. They prefer a sandy soil, so if yours has a lot of clay in it you should amend it with organic matter before planting. If you want to get a “head start” on your crop, mound up a ridge of loosely worked soil in your row to a height of 8”-12”, and then make a 2” furrow in the top. Cover with black plastic, and wait 2-3 weeks before planting.
Set the slips 10”-18” apart, in rows 3' apart. If using black plastic, make small slits 10”-18” apart and insert the slips. Fertilize 2 weeks after planting for a bigger harvest; an organic fertilizer such as Espoma’s Garden-Tone works well. Additional fertilizer is not necessary unless you plan to also harvest the leaves. Keep young plants watered and weeded; as they mature, they need little care.
Sweet potato leaves are also edible! Young leaves can be eaten raw; older ones may be bitter unless they are cooked. The leaves are a good source of vitamin B, carotene, iron, zinc and protein. Sweet potato tubers are high in vitamins A and C, and are a good source of fiber. Most varieties will produce “baby bakers” in 90-100 days. When the plants die back, or frost is predicted, dig all potatoes.
Harvesting: Be careful not to cut or bruise sweet potatoes during harvest. Gently use a shovel or large pronged spading fork, or just pull the dirt away if the soil is loose.
Storing: Place the sweet potatoes in ventilated baskets or crates, and let them dry out for 8-10 days. This will allow any cuts or bruises that occur during harvest to heal, and will toughen the skin for storage. After the potatoes are dried out, place them in a permanent storage area with a temperature range from 50˚ to 60˚. Avoid unnecessary handling.
Common Varieties We Often Stock:
BEAUREGARD: Widely grown commercially, with good color, shape & flavor. Very big potatoes are exceptionally sweet. High-yielding plants produce crack-resistant potatoes. Red-orange outside; orange inside. Matures in 90-100 days.
VARDAMAN: Bush-type with excellent flavor. Golden-orange skin and deep, orange-red flesh. Attractive dark foliage. 100 days.
COVINGTON: If you like Beauregard you will LOVE Covington! Darker orange flesh is very sweet and high-yielding plants mature in 100 days.
GEORGIA JET: Fast grower with heavy yields! Moist, orange flesh and deep red skin color. Bakers mature in 90-100 days.
CENTENNIAL: Popular older variety. Good for short season areas; baby bakers in 90 days. Moist texture: orange flesh and coppery skin.
“BUNCH” PORTO RICO: Old-fashioned flavor & excellent for baking, with a copper-colored skin and light yellow flesh. Short-vined variety is ideal for gardens with limited space. 110 days to mature.
O’HENRY: A drier sweet potato, with a white skin and creamy white flesh. Matures in 90 to 100 days; large potatoes grow in a compact cluster under the plant.
MURASAKI JAPANESE: A specialty white-fleshed potato, with deep purplish-red skin. Dry texture and elliptical shape; full-bodied flavor. 110 days.