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Sweet Success

October 25th, 2012

Last year, my mom and I didn’t grow sweet potatoes. Since we had lost our entire crop to the voles in 2010, we decided to take the year off. This spring we optimistically planted a large row in the garden hoping for the best.

It was a hot summer, just what the sweet potatoes ordered. All summer we kept wondering what we’d find when we harvested our patch.

Low and behold, it was a banner year; our sweet potatoes produced like mad. Most of them were nice sized roots, with the occasional mammoth one. We also ended up with a small bucket of the tiny ones, which will become dog food.

We won’t be eating these beauties right away, they need cured for their sweetness to come out. Sweet potatoes like to be cured in warm temperatures (around 85) for about 2 weeks. We decided to try curing the sweet potatoes in my mom’s greenhouse where it’s warm and toasty and around 85 on most sunny days. Half of them may be covered with a towel to see if this helps raise the humidity a little since they appreciate a high humidity during curing. It should be interesting to roast them for Thanksgiving next month and compare.

That’s part of growing root vegetables, you never really know what you’re going to find at harvest time. Most of the time you will find a great harvest but every now and then it’s a big disappointment. This year we’re enjoying our sweet success!

Have you ever had a disappointing root vegetable harvest?

Growing Sweet Potato Slips

June 14th, 2011

Last winter I found some ‘Hawaiian Sweet’ purple sweet potatoes at the farmer’s market. I purchased a few, some to eat and some to use for growing slips. I cooked a few for eating, they were good – much different in taste than a regular sweet potato. They have more of an earthy flavor than the regular sweet potato flavor.

This spring I put a few of them in water to start growing my slips. Starting your own sweet potato slips is quite easy. All you have to do is place sweet potatoes vertically in a jar of water and wait. You want the bottom of the potato in the water and the top out of the water. Ideally you want at least 2 inches of the potato out of the water. Use some of the nicest potatoes from the previous year’s crop, none that are shriveled. Place the jar in a warm spot, sweet potatoes prefer warmth since they’re tropical plants. Change the water occasionally to keep it fresh.
grow your own sweet potato slipsOnce the vines are about five inches long pick them off and put them in water. One potato will produce a lot of slips. You can keep pinching them off and more should form. They’ll sprout roots quickly and you can plant them in the garden when the soil warms. Around here that means around the first of July. There’s no need to hurry to get them in the soil early as they’ll languish if the temperatures are too cool, especially at night. Ideally you want to start your slips about 12 weeks before planting outside.

I didn’t think these potatoes were ever going produce slips, they sat in their jar of water for about 6 weeks. Just about the time I was going to compost them I noticed a few little buds forming. I have since read that purple sweet potatoes take much longer to sprout. I’ll be planting these along with a few other heirloom varieties that I purchase from Sand Hill Preservation. Let’s hope we can keep the voles out of them this year!

Do you grow sweet potatoes in your garden? What variety does well for you?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.