Table Of Contents
- Appearance and growth
- Location and ground
- Pre-culture and planting
- Crop rotation and mixed culture
- Harvesting sweet potatoes and recovery
- Sweet Potato Varieties
- Diseases and pests
Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) belong to the Windflower Family (Convolvulceae) and are native to Central America. In the 15th century they came to Europe and the rest of the world joined in harvesting sweet potatoes due to the Spaniards.
Because of their tasty and nutritious tubers, they have gained great economic importance in many parts of the world. Especially in the poorer regions of South America and Africa, where the population relies on the production of these vegetables. Sweet potatoes also called potatos, are therefore among the staple foods. However, their name often causes confusion between the sweet potato and the well-known potato (Solanum tuberosum) even though they are only very distantly related. By contrast, there is no relationship whatsoever with other tuberous plants such as Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).
Appearance and growth
The shape of sweet potatoes (which are actually storage roots) varies from round to spindle-shaped. Sweet potatoes grow up to 30 centimeters long and can even weigh several kilograms in their tropical homeland. The color of the tubers can be white, yellow, orange, pink or purple, depending on the variety. From the tubers drive long shoots with a lot of foliage. The light to dark green leaves are heart-shaped and petiolate – at first glance they are reminiscent ivy.
The plant varieties that grow from the sweet potatoes, also form pretty colorful flowers, but they have a very short flowering time.
Location and ground
The annual and not hardy sweet potatoes are strong feeders and prefer a loose and sandy soil rich in nutrients and humus. The ideal ground is a high nitrogen content. They are very sensitive to cold, which is why they need a sunny and sheltered location in the garden. This maybe in a balcony box, in the raised bed or in the glasshouse. In mild regions, they also thrive outside.
Pre-culture and planting
Unlike for example potatoes, sowing with sweet potatoes is not really worthwhile because the seeds germinate only very badly. The planting season usually begins with the end of the hibernation in April and May, but the plants can be planted from January. The sweet potato tubers are simply placed in tubs or boxes with loose soil. In a bright room, the tubers drift out in even soil moisture after a few weeks.
Also, you can hang the tubers of sweet potatoes, similar to an avocado core , place half in a glass of water and put on a bright window sill. When the shoots are long enough – about 20 to 30 centimetres – you can either plant the whole tuber or only the shoot cuttings. (To use the whole tuber it should be about halfway out of the ground).
If you do not have a greenhouse, you should only plant sweet potatoes outside after the frost has gone. They can then have a sheltered place in large planters on the balcony or terrace , in a mild wine-growing climate, they also mature in the outdoor bed. For a good harvest planters with a capacity of at least 30 litres are required. If one plants the sweet potato in a raised bed, then a row distance of 30 to 50 centimetres is to be kept.
Crop rotation and mixed culture
In case of strong eating root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, the use of crop rotation is recommended for successful cultivation. At the same time you prevent diseases, pest infestation and one-sided leaching of the soil. So change the bed year after year and plant as a neighbour preferably to different summer flowers. A mixed culture with carrots or thick beans is also possible.
Ensure that the plants are well protected from wind and cold rain. For prolonged periods of drought keeping regular watered is essential.
Harvesting sweet potatoes and recovery
The harvesting sweet potatoes begins in September. As soon as the plants turn yellow in autumn, the tubers are ready for harvest. This heat-loving Central American vegetable does not tolerate cold weather – at below 10 degrees the plants die off.
Unlike potatoes – are only partially suitable for storage. Store in a cool and dry room, excess sweet potatoes can be left for a short time. If stored too long, there is a risk that the tubers will rot.
Tip: If you wish to delay harvesting time – a thick layer of mulch or a cover of straw may delay harvesting time.
How long after harvesting sweet potatoes can you eat them?
The harvested tubers should be left to air dry for about two days before being eaten.
What to do with sweet potatoes?
Sweet potatoes can be prepared similar to potatoes, so they can be baked, cooked or fried. BBQ sweet potatoes are delicious, why not take a look at our guide to the Best Gas Grills Under $500 to find a decently priced gas grill to cook one on! Due to their consistency, they are fibrous to floury and taste sweet because of their high sugar and starch content.
Sweet potatoes are extremely valuable for the health. Because they contain a substance called Caiapo, which can lower high blood sugar and cholesterol in some studies this has been linked to help preventing diabetes. The leaves of sweet potatoes can be prepared like spinach .
Tip: Sweet potatoes are not only a tasty vegetable, some of the plant varieties show in early summer and attractive white or pink flowers. Unfortunately, they are a bit short-lived.
Varieties such as ‘Terrace Lime‘ with light green, ‘Blacky‘ with black-green and ‘Tricolor‘ with green-pink-white pied leaves are often used as potted or balcony plants. You could use them as a one-year greening for a pergolas and climbing frames.
Sweet Potato Varieties
Tasty, generally produces a high yield and very suitable for growing in our latitudes is the variety ‘Beauregard’. The culture duration is around 95 days. Very similar is the variety ‘Orleans’.
The ‘Bonita’ sweet potato has white meat and a very smooth shell.
The sweet potato variety ‘Murasaki’ has a distinctive dark red to purple peel and is reminiscent of sweet chestnuts.
The ‘Evangeline’ sweet potato tastes particularly sweet and is therefore mainly used for exotic desserts.
Sweet potatoes are usually propagated by shoot cuttings. The cuttings are cut from the tuber to propogate, remove the bottom leaves and put them about two-thirds of their length into the ground.
Diseases and pests
Sweet potatoes are quite robust against plant diseases and pests . Only snails make their way over the tubers from time to time. The best way to check the plants regularly for infestation and pick off any animals as soon as possible by hand.