Home Grown Sweet Potatoes
You prepared your beds, planted your sweet potatoes, and watched them grow into beautiful vines during the summer months. In the last few weeks you’ve noticed the ground around your plants start to bulge with the forming sweet potatoes. You are probably wondering when it will be time to harvest them and how it should be done.
Sweet potatoes are ready to harvest when the leaves start to turn yellow. Unlike regular (white) potatoes, you do not want to wait for the plant to die. The reason for this is that sweet potatoes will not die until they are frozen back by cold weather. You do not want your plants to freeze or get frost on them as this causes them to release chemicals that will cause the sugars to start to break down in the potato and shorten their storage life.
You will want to cut the vines off at the ground 2 or 3 days before you harvest your sweet potatoes. This will cause the skins to toughen and help increase their storage life. You can wait up to a week before you dig them if the ground is not wet or too cold but I wouldn’t wait any longer than that as they could start to rot.
To actually harvest your sweet potatoes, start well away from the plant and dig carefully toward the plant. This way you will not damage the outer laying potatoes. Dig with care not to damage the potatoes as this will shorten the storage life of them. As with anything else, a few are going to be damaged in the process. Just set them aside for immediate use.
Once they have been dug they need to be dried for 3 or 4 days before they are stored away. Lay them out in one layer in a place that is well ventilated and out of the direct sun. This will further toughen the skins so they will keep well.
To store sweet potatoes place them in an area that will not freeze or get too hot. They need to be kept away from moisture. They can be stored in more than one layer but I like to put something in between the layers like cardboard or dried hay. I have stored them successfully for 8 to 10 months in this way. Be sure to check them frequently to ensure they are staying dry and if any go bad remove them quickly to prevent them from causing others to go bad from contact with the bad ones.
Sweet potatoes are tasty, nutritious, and easy to grow and store. They are also one of our favorite treats here on the “Ridge”, so we try to grow a lot of them. They are a hardy plant and anyone should be able to grow them with a little effort. If you didn’t grow them this year, plan on growing them next year. It isn’t too early to start preparing your beds now, and have them ready for the spring planting.
Here’s to a good harvest for you and me, too!
For information on growing sweet potatoes check out this article; Growing Sweet Potatoes .