Watering is key during the hot, dry stretch of weather we're in right now. But one crop I don’t have to worry about in this heat is sweet potatoes.
Sweet potato is a tropical, South American vine in the morning glory family. It’s often is confused with yams.
Yams are actually another tropical root that’s seldom grown or found in this country. Sweet potato varieties can be soft or firm. The soft varieties were referred to as yams by African slaves because they reminded them of the yams growing back in their homeland. The name stuck, but really they’re just sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are easy to grow on well-drained, loose soil. Keep the seedling plants, or slips, well-watered the first few weeks.
After that, the vines take over creating a beautiful ground cover. The leaves are edible and used often in Asian cooking. While you’ll find sweet potato ornamental varieties a plenty in garden centers, for the best tuber production grow varieties such as Beauregard and Centennial.
Start harvesting once the foliage yellows, but before frost has blackened the vines. Wait for a dry day and with a shovel or iron fork, carefully dig the tubers not bruising the delicate skin.
Leave the harvested tubers on top of the soil for a few hours to dry.
Cure your sweet potatoes in an 80 degree F, well-ventilated room for ten days to transform the starches into sugars. Store them in a 55 degree F room for months.
If your sweet potato tubers have a black discoloration on the skin, that’s a disease called scurf. Although unsightly, the tubers are edible.