Growing a Superfood: Sweet ‘Taters
Jul 24, 2015
Sweet potatoes, or as locals refer to them, ‘sweet ‘taters, have risen from the dirt as a ‘superfood’ due to their high levels of vitamins A&C, antioxidants and low glycemic impact . These easy to grow root vegetables can be stored for months in a cool dry pantry without losing their flavor. Sweet potatoes are popular around the globe but Southern gardeners will love this versatile, easy to grow, sweet vegetable.
Sweet potatoes (Ipomea batatas), are related to several ornamental vines including common morning glory (I. tricolor), firecracker vine (I. lobata) and moonvine (I. alba) as well as about 500 other species. In fact, there are now many sweet potato cultivars used as ornamental annuals in the horticulture industry including ‘Blackie’ and ‘Pink Frost’. These varieties are prized for their foliage however and not the edible potatoes.
Since I have limited space for a vegetable garden at home, I have opted to grow less colorful, but tastier, edible sweet potatoes in my front yard. Clemson Extension recommends these cultivars for producing sweet potatoes in South Carolina: ‘Beauregard’, ‘Hernandez’, ‘Jewel’, ‘Covington’, and the white fleshed ‘Bonita’.
Sweet potatoes are typically started as ‘slips’ which are rooted cuttings planted when soil temperatures warm to 65F or above, usually in late May and early June. However potted transplants are more widely available and more cost effective if you only need a few plants. Purchase either from local feed and seed stores, nurseries or reputable online retailers.
(Photo by dishingupthedirt.com)
Even edible sweet potatoes are showy in late summer or early fall, when the pink, purple or white flowers bloom adding color to vegetable garden or landscape. Sweet potatoes are ready to be harvested when the vines begin to die back or just before the first frost.
Sweet potatoes should be cured before they are eaten to develop their sweet flavor. The curing process allows enzymes to convert starch to sugar making the potatoes sweeter and store longer. Store dry sweet potatoes in a warm, humid environment for 8-10 days followed by storage in a cool room, 55-65 degrees, for 6-8 weeks.
GUEST POST by Zack Snipes, Clemson Extension, Area Commercial Horticulture Agent, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo by Post and Courier)