Sweet Potato Cultivation


#81

I dug the last potatoes on weekends. Below are the last of my purple and sweet potatoes. Not very much, I had only 5 plants and they received zero attention from me.
I grew the sweet potatoes from my own slips this year. It was super easy. I just the put the tiny slips without roots in the soil under drip line in the crowded tomato bed in the hot July. It was done out of curiosity, because I did not expect them to thrive. They surprisingly survived and grew well. The soil under tomatoes was so soft that I just pulled the potatoes from it without digging.
Next year I’ll plant sweet potatoes as a second crop after garlic, because this bed stayed empty for the half of the summer, after I harvested garlic.


#82

@MuddyMess_8a,
If I get a chance I thought I would bring in a sweet potato plant less the potatoes to overwinter in the house. Next spring I could make hundreds of slips very quickly. Sunlight I realize will be a problem. I’m more concerned with soil born diseases and white flies. I figured to avoid soil diseases I would just grow them in water , a grow light for light, seven spray for the insects. What are your thoughts does it sound like a good idea? I could grow them in sand if that’s to long in water. I like these sweet potatoes they were wonderful! Flesh is very sweet and moist with a rich sweet potato flavor. In the meantime I put the sweet potato plant in a 55 gallon drum of water and it’s growing fine! I will need to trim it since it’s 6 feet long.


#83

Hello @MuddyMess_8a, a ? 4 U…

Today Mrs Dood dug up a few more sweet taters. Some of them look like they were munched on by something, maybe voles or mice. Can these bite marks be cut out and the taters cured like a non-injured one? Will the cut out part heal/cure over? Or should they just be pitched?

We are curing the ones we dug up last week in the bathroom tub, as it’s the warmest place right now available. We can’t keep a temp of >80 and high humidity in there, maybe closer to 75° and 50%. How long will it take to cure them in these less than optimum conditions?

Thanks.


#84

My plants never got very big. Probably because they got munched by rabbits multiple times, but even so I was hoping for more growth from them. We dug them up yesterday.

In picture:

Upper left - Molokai Purple
Center top - Laceleaf; these got some kind of root maggot and I had to toss most of the bigger tubers.
Upper right - Apache
Center Bottom - Korean Purple

We plan on cooking and eating the greens too. Laceleaf was less appealing to the rabbits, but also got more bugs in the tubers and the greens are less appealing to me for eating.

I’ll probably try Apache and Korean Purple again next year in a different spot with more anti-rabbit measures.


#85

The plant only made 1 tater, but it’s bigger than my wifes hand. Probably going to be stringy and not fit to eat.


#86

Sweet potatoes are one thing I have never tried to grow, assuming we are too far north, almost in zone 3. Has anyone in the north tried them?


#87

I think the longer they are in the ground the bigger they get. You may not have time for them to get very large.


#88

We’ve grown them the last few years. They are a beautiful plant and you can use the leaves like spinach, which is nice in the hot part of the summer when most greens struggle. Tuber wise however they have been pretty small, until this year when my wife just happened to put 2 of the plants next to a retaining wall I just built- the tubers got really nice sized. My theory is the block absorbed the heat and kept the soil temperature warmer both during the day and at night. We’re excited to try again next year with maybe 7 or 8 plants. We got several pounds this year from those 2 plants and they were delicious!


#89

Thanks, Klondike, maybe I will try a couple plants. I always like to experiment. I could put some cement silo staves next to them to see if that helps retain heat.


#90

I’ll take stringy over baby-food any day.


#91

The big ole tater turned out smooth and creamy in a sweet potato casserole we had for Thanksgiving. It surprised me how good and sweet it was.


#92

Yeah, in my experience I haven’t noticed much difference at all between different sized potatoes when other variables were the same.


#93

Some people here might be interested in the sweet potato tastings I’ve done over the years. I’ve grown at least 12 sweet potato varieties each of the last 8+ years and have done mostly blind taste tests with 5-8 tasters most years but with additional random friends and customers other years, including one year with over 20 customers, and always getting tasters to fill out “score cards” for me. Altogether, from the different years, I’ve probably gotten 50 different people to taste 10+ varieties together and rank/score them for me, some of those 50 people multiple times, so probably around 100 total score cards. What I find most notable from all these tastings I’ve done is that no one ever prefers any of the most common type of sweet potatoes sold in the stores (Covington or Beauregard or other varieties with similar flesh color and texture like Carolina Ruby…) when tasted side by side with other types. I’ve come to believe that a lot of people have false ideas of what they really like. In other words, people express a lot of different ideas about what they like until they taste the different varieties side by side, and then people show a remarkable degree of agreement about what they like.

All of the tastings I’ve done are based only on plain baked potatoes I’ve grown in my location, with my post-harvest storage practices, etc., so I have no idea how well they’d translate to different climates, different soils, different post-harvest practices, different cooking methods, etc., but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they varied a lot. I suspect, for example, that some big differences I’ve noticed in potatoes of the same variety grown the same year all on my small farm are due to having grown them in two different locations on my small farm where the soil type varies some.

So based on the taste tests I’ve done, it seems like Porto Rico and Nancy Hall (which I consider very similar types with similar texture and pale orange/yellow flesh) are universally liked. 21 of 21 customers last year, for example, gave Nancy Hall the highest mark on the tasting sheet. Other years Porto Rico has edged out Nancy Hall, but in terms of taste, I just consider them both very similar. I think the taste is outstanding. Even leftover at room temp with no salt or butter or anything else guests that taste them are frequently wowed by how great they taste, especially if they’ve previously only been familiar with standard grocery store types.

In that same taste test, only 4 customers gave Covington (the most common variety in stores today) the highest mark, which was fewer than all but two other varieties (of 13 total in that tasting). I will say, though, that although I think standard grocery store type sweet potatoes make very unexciting baking potatoes, they do seem to make the best sweet potato chips (deep fried) because of their texture.

Here’s how I’d characterize the tasting results some of the other varieties:

McDaniel White - very good, very widely liked (softer, moister white fleshed variety)

Also widely liked and particular favorites of people preferring a firmer, dried textured potato with very good flavor:
Red Japanese (red skinned, white flesh, especially slow to age/cure/develop full flavor)
White Triumph (light skinned, white flesh)
Murasaki (similar to Red Japanese but I haven’t trialed it as extensively yet)

Darker orange fleshed (relative to Porto Rico and Nancy Hall, for example) varieties that have been more variable in taste (maybe due to soil type where they were grown?), sometimes tasting great, other times just very plain, moist but not baby-food texture:
Scott Orange
Ginseng

Varieties that people have liked well enough but haven’t scored quite as high in taste tests:
Norton (light skinned, white fleshed, fairly moist)
Liberty (the most beautiful potato I’ve ever grown, purple-red skin, yellowish-white flesh)

Varieties that were another notch lower (mostly not disliked, but scored below average):
Bonita
Gem
Carolina Ruby
Beauregard
Covington

And at the very bottom are both of the purple-fleshed varieties I’ve tried growing. They’re pretty much everyone’s least favorite potato to eat plain. I don’t think they were bad, though, just very, very plain compared to other potatoes.

I grew an additional 6 new-to-me potato varieties this year that I’m waiting to make sure they’ve had plenty of time to develop their full flavor before I taste them: Kotobuki, Suwan 147, Xushu 18, PI 267946, White Bunch, and TN Red. Those are mostly favorites of a friend that grows almost four times as many potato varieties as I grow.


#94

Thanks for the review. I’ve not been a big fan of sweet potatoes, but they are so easy to grow. I’ll have to try to find some of the Nancy Hall to see if I’d enjoy them more.


#95

Anne, if I were to recommend just one variety for you, I’d probably recommend Porto Rico over Nancy Hall. Although it really shined in that one taste test I mentioned, every taste test is a little different, and I would rank Porto Rico at least as high if I averaged all the years together, so I don’t want to give the impression that Porto Rico is even slightly inferior. They’re both great and so similar they’re very hard to even tell apart. I’m inclined to recommend Porto Rico, though, because in my experience it’s more productive and yields a little better percentage of nice size, nice looking potatoes. It also may be a little bit easier to find. If under your conditions Porto Rico tastes anything like it does for me, you certainly won’t have gone wrong with it (or with Nancy Hall.) There’s a world of difference between them and what most people are used to for sweet potatoes in the US.


#96

Thanks for the detailed review, Eric. Our pics of the sweet taters earlier in this thread were Beauregard. We got them from Walmart and put 18 plants into the ground. Once I built a deer proof fence around them, they took off. We harvested maybe 40lb from the 15 plants that survived.

They have a good flavor, I guess, but I’m not much of a SP connoisseur. This was the first year we were able to get any to do anything. Mrs Dood made a SP casserole out of them and it was very good. We still have a big tote of them sitting in our cellar.

Might venture out and maybe try some different ones next season, like you suggested, especially the Porto Rico or Nancy Hall. Just wonder who would be selling these.


#97

I used to really like standard sweet potatoes a lot. As a young bachelor I remember eating two or three baked sweet potatoes for one full meal almost daily. I’d put a little salt and lots of butter on them. Now I mostly don’t put anything on my potatoes. I like salty foods and I put lots of butter on other things, but I mostly like my potatoes just plain. I may have become a sweet potato snob, though, because I really don’t care for the potatoes I used to eat all the time. Subdood, I’d definitely encourage you to trial some different colors and types and see what you like best. Don’t judge any new varieties too soon, though: I think a lot of my favorite potatoes aren’t very good at all until they’ve been out of the ground (in at least a moderately warm place) for a month, and there’s one variety that I like very well but set aside and don’t eat until the new year.

I’ve bought from https://www.tatorman.com/ and otherwise traded potatoes with friends and grown my own slips.

A couple nurseries that I haven’t ever bought slips from before but that have huge selections are http://www.duckcreekfarms.com/sweetpotato.shtml and http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/catalog/sweet_potatoes.html
I think those place are substantially more expensive, but if you only want to order a small quantity once and then grow your own slips from then on price probably doesn’t matter so much.

Some varieties I haven’t grown before that I’d like to try include violetta, allgold, (white) Travis, heart-o-gold…


#98

Thanks Eric for all the info.
I’ve never grown a bush sweet potato, only vines. How much room do they take up? I’ve trained these vines up a tomato cage to try to contain them and conserve space so a bush might be ideal.
Whenever I have ordered slips they’ve looked pitiful almost DOA… And then I read about this new method from one of your links…

We will also use the newer and accepted practice adopted by universities and large commercial growers by supplying “cuts”. This is where the slips are cut off at soil level and shipped without roots and some of the leaves also removed. It adds an extra layer of disease control and gets the slips into a more desired size for shipping and reduces stress. They are also packed rather dry, so will be wilted and possibly yellowed. The cuts will root very fast after being planted and kept moist/wet for a few days.

Have you gotten slips like this? I mean just stems? Honestly, I wish they would just send me one potato to make my own slips.


#99

That is a dream come true. Mine plants have always been eaten to the ground or pulled out by voles or rabbits.


#100

I guess we don’t have vole or rabbit issues around here, our main culprits are the $@#%&*ing deer. I’ve seen some bunnies around, but I think our dog keeps them at bay. With the deer? Not so much…