I had a pretty glorious day at City Sprouts yesterday. It was sweet potato day. They pulled 680 pounds of them on Tuesday, and we weighed in another 100 pounds yesterday. They were piled and stacked everywhere! Big, small, thin, melon-sized, gnarly, pretty…all sorts. The ones you find in the grocery store are definitely not representative of the imperfect varieties you pull from the ground. It’s fascinating to witness the distinguishing characteristics imparted by differences in ground temperature and soil irrigation. Sweet and earthy, they are easily one of my favorite garden products. For this reason, I tried to absorb as much as I could about the growing/harvesting process.
A little about sweet potatoes:
- grow on trailing vines that quickly cover the soil and root at points along the way–the root is what we eat
- planted as soon as the soil warms up after the last frost to allow the maximal warm-weather growing period
- soil should be moist but never waterlogged and spreading varieties need at least 3-4 feet between rows
- require little weeding once vines spread and cover the ground
- should not be watered during the last 3-4 weeks before harvest to protect the developing roots
- should be dug around the time of the first frost in fall
- cold soil temperatures quickly lessen the roots’ ability to retain their storage
- after digging, roots are allowed to dry on the ground for 2-3 hours, then placed in a warm room for curing for 10-14 days and then stored long-term in a cool location
- in case of frost, vines are cut immediately from roots to prevent the spread of decay and preserve the sweet potato
I learned a lot!
Then I picked more veggies. I’m so lucky that City Sprouts planted a little late and the warm weather is lasting–crates of vegetables are still being filled each day. And with each crate, I learn a bit more about individual plants.
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