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Sweet Potato Harvest

The Sweet Potato Ponanza!  The thing I was most excited about growing this year were potatoes.  Both regular potatoes and sweet potatoes.  I really like growing things that can be stored throughout the fall/winter.  Things like carrots, beets, and potatoes. And squash.

I also really like to show you all that I’ve done through an assortment of beautiful photographs and video.

I’m really sorry I don’t have pictures or video footage of me harvesting my sweet potatoes, but I looked awful the day I had to dig up the sweet potatoes. Flat hair, dull skin, clothes I should have thrown out 15 years ago.

On Sweet Potato digging day I looked the kind of awful where neighbours ask “So, how long have you had the plague?”.

I did manage to get a few shots where I am not visible at all. If I *am* visible in some reflection on a leaf or something please know, those are just some dry patches on my face, not scabies and I’m working on getting rid of them.

O.K. I lied to you, I do have video footage.  I didn’t want to tell you.  Please don’t look at it.  At the very least don’t look at me.

I planted 12-15 sweet potato slips on June 1st.   I harvested them around the second week of October.  This is how it went …

 

So from the slips that I planted in an approximately 5′ x 5′ area, I harvested 25 lbs of sweet potatoes.  That works out to a pound of sweet potato per square foot.

Harvesting sweet potatoes doesn’t end with digging them up.  Once you dig them up you have to let them dry in the sun for a few hours.  Then they need to be brought inside and cured for 10 days, and then cured some more for another month or so.

Apparently the optimal conditions for curing sweet potatoes are in an 85 degree room at 85 percent humidity.  Um …  sure.

I came up with what I think is a pretty good solution to this ridiculous curing demand that so many websites just brushed aside.  I mean, other than storing the potatoes in the bathroom during a luxurious 10 day long shower with the help of the world’s largest hot water tank … how were you supposed to get a room at 85 degrees and 85 percent humidity?

I ended up putting my sweet potatoes in a couple of cardboard boxes which I kept sitting right beside the fireplace which we light every night.  If you don’t have a fireplace (gas, wood or otherwise) put the box in the warmest area of your house.  By the heat register for example.  Then, I got a very damp dish towel and placed it over the top of the cardboard box instead of a lid.  Over that, I draped a plastic bag to hold the moisture in the towel and therefore the humidity in the box.

Every night I checked the temperature inside the box as it sat by the fireplace and it was consistently 85 degrees while the fire was going, but closer to 75 while it wasn’t.  Better than nothin’ I think.  Humidity level seemed good.

I cured the potatoes for 10 days like that, and am now in the process of the second stage of curing.  All that involves in storing the potatoes in an area that’s 55 – 60 degrees and waiting for another month to eat them.   My mudroom has good conditions for this.  And if it gets too cold in there I’ll just fill the box with straw (which is  great insulator) and put the sweet potatoes in that.

Why all the fuss about this curing business?  The initial cure at 85 degrees and 85% humidity helps to heal any scars on the sweet potatoes and also keeps them full of moisture.  Doing this keeps the sweet potatoes from getting soft and drying out later on.  It also starts the sugar process.

Sweet potatoes you see, aren’t actually sweet when you first dig them up.  The additional curing and storing the sweet potatoes for a month or so allows the sweet potatoes to develop their natural sweetness.  They’re fine for using in a pie or something you add sugar to, but if you’re eating them plain, baked or fried you need to let them develop their sugar before eating them.

Looking for something that’s easier to store throughout the winter? Fat cells. Give those a shot.

Wanna see the bizarro sweet potato problems you’ll encounter if you try to grow them in bags? Go behind the scenes of this post and find out here.


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35 Comments | Filed Under: Kitchen, Outdoor | Tags: , , ,

35 Responses to Sweet Potato Harvest

  1. Carla Barnes says:

    “This video is private” – ok, your privilege, but it’s kinda mean to tease us then! Pretty please could we watch it, even if you didn’t have your makeup crew on hand?

  2. Sara says:

    Video works now! Do you eat the greens? People here do. Haven’t tried them myself. Do you have a favorite recipe?

    • Karen says:

      I don’t eat the greens, but I’ve heard a lot of people do. I was swimming in greens this year. I still am! So .. no need for sweet potato greens. Unless they naturally taste like potato chips. ~ karen!

  3. Katrina says:

    Sweet potatoes are my absolute fav root veg! Is there supposed to be a link to the behind the scenes?

  4. Laura says:

    I feel like I just watched someone give birth! But in a much less disgusting, painful way. The suspense! I loved it! Kudos, Karen. :)

  5. Elle says:

    I just re-read your “before” post from April.
    How do I know which climate zone I’m in for planting sweet potatoes?
    I’ve just started an on-deck-in-planters vegetable garden (put in: carrots, lettuce, baby greens, broccoli, radishes, mint, verbena, thyme, lemongrass and basil) I want to grow strawberries too and next summer tomatoes, peas and cucumbers and now following this post – sweet potatoes! Which I absolutely love.

  6. Jeff Walker says:

    I had no idea sweet potatoes were such a pain in the butt to grow! I’m a vegetarian and I eat them in pretty much everything including lasagna and chili. I have a brand new respect for the ones I pick up in the store, even if they do come from Mexico or some other country. Hey and you always look great and videos are always awesome.

  7. Tigersmom says:

    Yeah, a “sweet potato carrot,” that’s what we’ll call it.

    Thank you for including the shot of you walking by with the massive tangle of sweet potato death vine.

  8. Janie Farmer says:

    Sorry. When you dig up veggies here you also dig up snakes and I hate the B@$#@&*$. My name may be Farmer but when it comes to farming you’re on your own.

  9. Ann says:

    Karen,

    I am finding that the curing process can vary by huge amounts and still produce perfectly wonderful sweet potatoes. I cured mine in our guest apartment where the temps varied by great degrees and the humidity was dependent on what ever it was outside. If you can’t keep them at 85 degrees then the curing process just takes a little longer. And we start eating them right after that “warm” cure and just figure the 50-60 temps were what we needed to store them at for the rest of the winter.

    Our sweets this year were amazing. Huge football sized tubers and some even bigger. The secret is very very loose soil that never gets walked on. So we built bins and filled them with a mixture of leaf mold and garden soil. We planted the slips in the middle of this 2′ raised bin and did very little else all season. When I harvested the potatoes were so easy to pull and there was virtually no damage to the spuds.

    I did not know that you can eat the greens. But I think I will just continue to feed them to our pig since they love them so much and I have tons of other greens to eat.

  10. I grew them too in the same square footage as you and got about the same harvest. I call that success! When my son and I uncovered the first one, I was so excited that they actually grew! What a rush!

    Blessings to you on many more harvests…LOVE your site!

    • Karen says:

      THanks Teresa! Yeah, I was pretty excited myself. My whole neighbourhood knew about the sweet potatoes I was growing so I was running around like a mad woman trying to find a neighbour to show! I finally found one who was suitably impressed. :) ~ karen

  11. Debbie says:

    I love how excited and seemingly somewhat surprised you are when you find your beautiful sweet potato!! You are like master gardener extraodinaire! Can’t wait to hear how the sweet potato fries taste this winter!!

  12. cred says:

    Wow! that’s pretty exciting. I love root vegetables for the excitement of delayed gratification- you don’t know what you’re gonna get until crunch time.

    I would have been thrilled to unearth that 1st huge sweet potato.

    very cool!

  13. Lisa F says:

    I never knew sweet potatoes had to cure. Thank you for the information. I was considering sweet or russet potatoes for the garden next year. Your sweet potato harvest was gorgeous!

    • Sarah In Illinois says:

      I did not know this either and wondered why mine straight from the garden were just “blah”!

      We harvested sweet potatoes about a month ago down here in Illinois. Since I did not do the high heat high humidity thing, is there anything I can do a month later? Or do I just have to eat my boring bland potatoes?

      • Karen says:

        Sarah – As long as you let your potatoes sit the sugar in them will develop. The longer they sit the sweeter they are. At one month they’ll already be way sweeter than they were the minute you picked them. Cure just helps to speed the sugaring process along. The only other detriment you’ll have with not curing is they won’t store as well. They’ll get soft and rot quicker than if you cured them. They’ll still last quite a long time, just not as long as if you cured them. Try to keep the ones you have at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. That temp. will help them keep better than anything colder or warmer would. So as long as you eat em before they rot you’ll be fine. :) ~ karen!

  14. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I also did not know that you had to go through a curing ritual with sweet potatoes..I had a good laugh seeing the huge tangled mass of vines with legs walking across your yard..lol

  15. Mel says:

    Awesome! I grew some a few years ago, and had one 7 pound sweet potato that was as big as my head. It was ridiculous! They are so satisfying… I never knew about the curing process. You are so helpful!

  16. Shauna says:

    I am not kidding you, my husband was just bugging me yesterday for the email where you outlined all of this for me, but I couldn’t find it. I swear, sometimes it’s like you read minds. You’re kinda amazing like that. Now, we too, can harvest our sweet potatoes. thanks.

  17. karol says:

    I thank God every day that someone loves to do this for a living and makes it easy for people like me to be able to buy produce and meat. I get a tremendous amount of pleasure from “doing things”, but growing, harvesting, and waiting for a sweet potato to cure wouldn’t be one of them.
    God Bless farmers everywhere!

  18. Lyse says:

    Very happy Karen that you followed all the instructions on how to cure sweet potatoes. I have been working for a farmer as my second career since I retired from Customer Service roadside Adviser for 17yrs, so my experience in planting, hoeing and harvesting sweet potatoes is my thing now. So I can certified that you are doing it right! lol!
    I personally applaud you for going trough the process and believe me , doing it even with machine is so hard on the shoulders and hand is not an easy job. Still, now that the curing is done , the washing and packing is what we will be doing until February so If you can grow them, please buy local.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Lyse! It’s quite a process. Sweet Potatoes should be way more expensive than they are! I still have to wait a few weeks for them to sweeten up. I cannot WAIT to try them but I don’t want to try them too early and be disappointed. Good luck on your second career! ~ karen

  19. Pam'a says:

    A couple of years ago I had some ornamental sweet potatoes in my front pots (the kind you grow for the pretty chartreuse leaves). When I pulled them out at the end of the season, lo and behold– A great big tater was at the bottom.

    So, we cooked the horribly twisted thing. It was actually pretty tasty and probably shouldn’t have been, judging by everything I didn’t know I was supposed to do. Thanks for the REAL skinny. :)

    • Karen says:

      Pam’a – I’ve grown those too by accident but always threw them away. Basically they frightened me for some reason. ~ karen!

  20. kim says:

    Just thought Id share that I put my sweet potatoes in the laundry room next to the hot water heater to cure. Next is to can them! Great video.

  21. Christina says:

    Hooray! I had no idea about curing sweet potatoes, and your harvest is so impressive! Woohoo! And soon you will get to eat ALL THE SWEET POTATOES!

  22. Marika says:

    Here is one of my favourite sweet potato recipes. It’s especially good with chutney. I make it with tofu rather than tempeh. Tempeh and my guts don’t get along. http://www.doorsixteen.com/2011/01/01/sweet-potato-hash/

  23. thank you very much for this fun and funny post! i am going to give it a go in my yard next season! is that just regular sheet plastic that you used or expensive grower’s plastic from the nursery?

    thanks a bunch! pamela

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pamela – Well … it’s expensive grower’s plastic from the nursery, LOL. It was all I could find quickly that was side enough to cover a huge area without having to piece it all together. ~ karen!

  24. Erin says:

    Congrats on your sweet potato harvest!
    I dug mine at about the same time and am anxiously waiting for the second cure to end.

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