I SPENT 5 MONTHS GROWING SWEET POTATOES. WHO GOT THEM? THE VOLES OR ME?

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The humble sweet potato.   A 100 calorie root that tastes more like candy than a potato.  Not to be confused with the Yam, a similar looking, but drier vegetable grown mainly in Africa and Asia, the sweet potato gives you a lot of bang for those 100 calories.  They’re high in vitamin A, vitamin B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and, carotenoids which means they can help fight cancer. But don’t go eating bowls and bowls of sweet potatoes on the off chance you think they’ll cure your cancer.  They won’t.  Plus eating too many of them will turn your skin and nails orange because of all the Vitamin A, so then you won’t only have cancer, you’ll  have cancer and look like you’re wearing a prison jumpsuit.

For the past 6 years I’ve been growing sweet potatoes in a place you really shouldn’t be able to grow sweet potatoes; cold, cold,  Canada.     And yet.  Every single year I’ve successfully grown sweet potatoes.  I’ve also successfully grown what appears to be cellulite on my foot which you shouldn’t be able to do either.

But there you have it. A success on both counts.

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sweet-potato-plot

 

My 4′ x 4′ sweet potato patch was all the space I needed for planting 9 sweet potato slips.

 

vine-in-hardware-cloth

 

I don’t need much more sweet potatoes than this patch will produce, plus I didn’t want to waste too much space in my garden on sweet potatoes since last year my harvest was mostly enjoyed by mice and voles.  Who neither made reservations nor left me a tip.

 

hardware-cloth-on-sweet-potatoes

This year I tried some vole protection.  I covered my entire sweet potato bed with hardware cloth screwed into the raised beds so tight that not a single vole could squish through it at any point.  Or so I hoped.

 

4-x-4-sweet-potatoes

On October 3rd I trudged up to the garden while the paint in my dining room was drying and took the hardware cloth off and got my very first look at whether or not this experiment worked.

 

sw-potatoes

That plastic is thermal plastic (in case you missed it in the video)  which helps keep the temperature of the soil raised by 10 degrees.  That’s the trick to growing big sweet potatoes in Canada.

If you aren’t sure what to do with sweet potatoes, my favourite way to eat them is either baked, just like a regular potato or made into sweet potato fries using my Guaranteed Crispy Sweet Potato Fry technique.

sweet-potato-pile

By the way, shitload is a technical term you understand.

42 Comments

  1. Gayle'' says:

    Thanks for the tip. I love sweet potatoes and will give this a try. Love reading your blog!

  2. Mary says:

    Will be trying your SPF recipe. Many others promise crispy SPFs, but so far not so great. Fingers crossed your recipe works.

    • Karen says:

      If you follow the directions it’ll work Mary. The 100% sure way it to deep fry them. But it only works if you put the coating on that I suggest. You’ll still get crispy fries in the oven they just won’t be quite as good. Because frying makes everything better, lol. ~ karen!

  3. Jan in Waterdown says:

    I really must get my act together and start eating sweet potatoes. I buy them, they get moldy in the fridge and then I throw them out. Think I maaaay be missing an important step. By the way, you looked kinda hot in that video. I mean that in a friendly hopefully not weird way. Yup.

    • Karen says:

      I did?? I’m doubting that, but I’ll go have another look at it just in case, lol. ~ karen!

    • Never put them in the fridge! (Or any kind of potato, for that matter.) That’s why yours get moldy and gross tasting. Keep them in a cool dark place like a cabinet, or the basement if you have one. Karen, your sweet potatoes are beautiful!

  4. Mary Schnitzler says:

    Try baking them, and just cut them in half and add some butter and brown sugar, or pineapple tidbits. Yum!

  5. Lynn says:

    I love them also . I have just been to chicken to try an grown them here . Out side of Edmonton our weather can get crazy during every season.

    • Karen says:

      Ooooo, yes, that’d be a stretch to grow them just outside of Edmonton, but … you could give it a shot. Mine grow from June 1st (when the soil is warm enough to plant them) and I leave them in the ground until the threat of frost. ~ karen!

  6. Ardith says:

    A real triumph! Congratulations, Ardith

  7. Nan says:

    Jane~ you mentioned that you keep the sweet potatoes in the fridge. That could be why they’re getting moldy. Karen, just plain love your blog even if nothing pertains to anything I’m doing (or want to do)! I’m in northern Wisconsin so our weather isn’t that different, you might have encouraged me to do more gardening,

  8. Lisa says:

    My possums LOVE sweet potatoes, I share mine with them (or they with me)…not really sure. I can send some possums over if you have too many sweet potatoes. Have you tried them mashed – very scrummy. Loving your posts as always. 🙂

    • MaggieB says:

      Ergh! I’m not so sure about mashed Possums – think I’ll give them a miss 🙂

    • Teri says:

      LOL, not sure the name of the grammar rule that got mashed there (pun intended) but it made me chuckle. Personally I find possums useful for the fur they donate to my favourite winter socks. Any Kiwis here that want to weigh in on those great socks?
      Karen your sweet potatoes look pretty darn good. Out here on the wet coast I know folks who grow them (we’re zone 8b in parts of B.C.) but yours, with the thermal plastic and hardware cloth look much better.
      I peel, bake, dice and then throw them into a salad with raw spinach and dried (or fresh) blueberries. Superfoods overdrive. With balsamic and maple syrup dressing. As Canadian as poutine.

      • Lisa says:

        Yes the Kiwis hate our possums and we are the same way about the British Foxes – cute but don’t belong with our wildlife – toads (mind you not their fault just the idiots of history). Love the idea of balsamic and maple syrup dressing shall have to try that.

  9. TucsonPatty says:

    I am just loving looking at all of the impressive, gorgeous taters you got there – my kind of meal. I get on an eating kick, and before you know it, my palms and fingers are that lovely shade of orange that is so hard to replicate. How long will this batch last?

  10. Grammy says:

    Beautiful harvest! I love when your experiments work so well. I did exactly the same thing to protect all my raised beds from the neighbor’s cat, and it worked exceedingly well for that, too.

    I love to just bake sweet potatoes and eat them like an ordinary baked potato, they taste so good by themselves that they don’t need any butter or any other thing — just savor the delicious veggie on its own.

  11. Rebecca Mahoney says:

    I have a dumb question. How does covering your bed prevent burrowing voles? Mine (no pun intended) mine underground like moles. My saffron is at constant risk growing in a cage.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rebecca. The voles LOVE to tunnel. But they want to tunnel from where they see the food. The raised beds are high enough that they’d have to tunnel under the wood of the raised bed and up to the sweet potatoes. They’re smart but not that smart. Yet, lol. ~ karen!

  12. Paula says:

    They look perfect! I got frost before the end of September this year, so I am not sure that I would have the time to grow sweet potatoes but I will give them a go next year.

  13. sideroad40 says:

    ***Shitload**** !!! Wow Karen, your patience, experimenting nature and cleverness paid off big time. ~~ very impressed ~~ A sweet potato a day keeps the doctor away. 🙂

  14. Teresa Rosato says:

    Do you cure them after you pull them? I’ve heard this needs to be done in order for them to be tasty.. if not how do you store them afterwards? TIA!

    • Ann says:

      I stopped curing mine. We eat the first ones within hours of harvesting and they seem every bit as sweet as if I had purposefully cured them. I just never let the tubers get colder than about 50 degrees F after I have brought them into the house

      • Karen says:

        Really?! You’re lucky! I’ve tried them out of the ground just to see what they were like and they tasted very much like cardboard, lol. I think your experience is probably an exception as opposed to the norm. The variety maybe? I’d still advise people to cure them because keeping them at that humidity will allow you to store them for quite a bit longer. ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      I absolutely cure them Teresa. 🙂 I thought I mentioned that in the post, but must not have! To cure them I put them in a box (either cardboard with the lid closed and a damp towel in with them, or plastic bin with the lid partially off) to keep them at 85% humidity and 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 days. Then another couple of weeks at regular room temperature, then into cold storage that doesn’t go below 50. The sweet potatoes really aren’t sweetened for a couple of months and if you eat them before that they’ll just taste bland. ~ karen!

      • Nicole says:

        Okay, this may just be a question with a self-evident answer that I missed but . . . how do you keep them at 80-85 degrees in October? My house certainly isn’t that warm – with my hot flashes my family would be in great peril if it was even close to 80 degrees!

        • Karen says:

          Hi Nicole … it’s in there somewhere but I’m not sure where, lol. I put the sweet potatoes in a rubbermaid bin with the lid not closed tight. Then I put that bin in front of (or on top of) a heat register. Normally by the time I pull my sweet potatoes I have my furnace on and it all works out perfectly. 🙂 ~ karen!

  15. JackieVB says:

    My favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is steamed then mashed with a little bit of Chipotle chili pepper, some chopped applewood smoked bacon and a little bit of butter on top. You could also add some swiss or white cheddar cheese if you wanted.
    You’ll never go back to brown sugar and butter again. Ok, maybe you will but I promise this is very good and worth trying.

  16. Mary W says:

    Congrats on the good harvest – makes me hungry for lemon zested sweet potato pie, SP chips, SP hash browns, and the wonderful smells that come from cooking them. Your garden in amazing and could only come from an amazing gardener like you. I just don’t understand what is taking Idris so long.

  17. Pam says:

    Wow, nice job. I dug mine up last week and mine did OK but yours are more evenly sized than mine. I got one giant sweet tater and several small ones from each slip. I did have one that was nibbled on so I will try the hardware cloth next year. I think preparing a nice fluffy hill for them before planting is important.

  18. Milton says:

    Great video, impressive harvest!

  19. Lois Baron says:

    As usual, you totally conquer something that I wouldn’t even attempt. If you didn’t live is such a cold place, I would totally want to be you! And thank you for answering the question about voles–it was big question as soon as I read the headline. lol.

  20. Heather says:

    After seeing your harvest, I’m kinda sorry I tagged you in my Instagram post about my “very wee sweet potatoes” I was able to grow following your tutorial. They are the bonsai of sweet potatoes due to an early harvest ( due to the crappy weather here in Alberta). We had 6″ of snow the day you harvested. Simply beautiful veggies you grew! I’ll do it again next year.

  21. Eileen says:

    You can also eat the sweet potato vines…I learned this from the interwebs out of sheer desperation the first time I tried to grow them and then promptly took over most of my back yard (zone 7b)! They are an Asian staple. My vines rooted all over the place and I ended up having to dig up a section of patio in order to get the tubers that had decided to grow UNDER the patio stones….Luckily(?) the section needed to have the slope changed slightly anyway!

  22. Holy Cow that is a crapton of sweet potatoes. Well done.

  23. Laura says:

    It’s a cute ass. And congratulations on the unharmed harvest!

  24. Jo says:

    Crop looks great! I am in SW Ontario, just ouside of town is a massive sweet potato farm. Not as fun as growing your own, but nice that a 2 minute drive you can get sweet potatoes year round. Question, is a vole the same thing as a mole? I have never heard of a vole. Awsome blog. Enjoy everyone you write.

  25. Janet says:

    That is an amazing harvest! I’m definitely going to try growing sweet potatoes next year.

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