Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sweet Potato Trials - And Arctic Express Coming On Through!

Dear Folks,

My experiment with two heirloom varieties of sweet potatoes has finished and overall I am very pleased with the results.  On July 10th, I planted "Barberman" and "Purple" sweet potato slips ordered from Sandhill Preservation.  The pictures show my harvest on November 27, 2011.

What I Did Wrong.

I had checked about 30-40 days ago for how the tubers were coming along.  Not wanting to 'invade' too much I did not dig my fingers down deep enough, so I decided to wait until Thanksgiving time to harvest (or first frost - which ever came first).  The challenge became that I should have turned off the watering a month ago, to prevent the splitting you see in the collage here.

Sweet Potatoes need a warm growing season, so they are perfect for growing opposite the Irish potatoes (I grow both).  Slips should be planted May through early July for the best results and you can start checking for harvestable size after about 60 days.  To avoid splitting, as I now know, you need to stop excessive watering for the 4 weeks leading up to final harvest (in our case - other areas of the country simply harvest at 90 days or first frost).  Since we generally start into our 2nd rainy season in November, the rain we had this month added to the split problem.

As you can see from the collage, not all of them split.  I am also showing that I'm cutting off some roots to replant.  I am hoping they will 'winter-over' okay - in past years it was a problem to NOT have them continue to grow when I grew them in the ground.  Since I am using large containers, I hope we do not get the killing freezes we had last year.

I would order these again for sure.  The reason I chose a purple variety was for novelty, but also like all blue and purple fruits and vegetables, they have higher antioxidants than their paler relatives.  However, the deep orange and red varieties are almost as high.  If you were to choose the top vegetable and fruit for ultimate nutrient density, fiber, and antioxidant capacity, sweet potatoes and mangos would be the choices.  I'm going to work on a mango again soon (frost killed it last year).

Speaking of Frost - Get Ready For The Arctic Express -- the end of this week the a cold and rainy front is moving on it and will be here at least for a week to 10 days.  IF THE OVERNIGHT forecast is for 40 or lower be prepared to cover and protect your tender plants with cloth or paper covers, and hope we do not get a hard freeze.

Back to the sweet potatoes.  I did have to peel off more of the split surfaces than I had hoped but what I had was a nice bunch which I chunked up, roasted and then mashed with a bit of apple cider and butter, for my post-thanksgiving turkey dinner this past Sunday.

Can't get any better than harvesting sweet potatoes Sunday morning and eating them that afternoon!

I have left the rest of the ones harvested to dry a bit in the sun/shade, and will bring them in to sit on my counter until I cook them up next week.  Sweet potatoes need to be 'cured' a bit and are more delicate than Irish potatoes for long-term storage.  I left some in the pots and will harvest the remainder in two weeks - I will probable prepare some for freezing so I have some a little later.  I also plan on selecting one or two which 'want' to root and seeing if they will store in my crisper, the way I store my Irish for later re-plantings. Will let you all know how that works out.

For those of you who want to grow IRISH POTATOES, get ready to plant later in December, but no later than the end of January.  I have a tradition of planting those on January 1st to finish out my holidays and head immediately into real gardening again. :-)

Have a great week, folks,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady