Super Sweet Potatoes

We grew a crop of sweet potatoes this year that really surprised us.  I had no expectations for the sweet potatoes and thought to myself that I’d figure it out as I went.  I tend to learn by ‘doing’ when it comes to our garden.  I make mistakes but I also learn to think outside the box.  It’s nice to not always follow the leader.

did do what I was told in regard to buying the sweet potato plants and not rooting the tuber from the supermarket.  A tuber from the store is easy to root, but apparently it can carry disease into your soil.  I’m certain this can happen any time you buy a little plant at the hardware store and plant it in your garden (especially with tomatoes).  I chose not to take the risk with potatoes and purchased some little plants from a local edible nursery.  The sweet potato starts were inexpensive but really tough to find.

I started with a variety called ‘Boniato‘ several years ago.  Now I’ve added several other varieties such as ‘Beauregard’ and ‘Tainung’.  To be honest, I’m not sure which variety is growing where in our yard.  Those labels are long gone.  This isn’t a problem for our us though because our sweet potatoes are for our table not a market.

Hydroponincally grown sweet potatoes at The Land in Epcot, Disney World.

I harvested a huge amount of sweet potatoes this year and it was back-breaking work.  These tubers were heavy and I had to dig and dig to find them.  I learned the hard way that I should never throw the potatoes.  They bruise easily and the bruise will turn into a rotten area.  I tossed a few a little too hard, but didn’t do too much damage.  Some of the tubers were gigantic.  I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing and worried that I waited too long to harvest them (maybe way too long).  My good friend Dr. Nune assured me that a larger sweet potato doesn’t mean it’s not tasty, just more of it to cook.  A farmer friend told me that the larger potatoes are more difficult to sell at the market.

Pick Me Yard's backyard sweet potato harvest.

This huge sweet potato was growing in the middle of the crop. Grayson named the potato "It" after the brain in "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeline L'Engle.

I was careful to keep my sweet potatoes from sitting in the sun while I was digging.  After I harvested my huge potatoes, I dragged the full and heavy wagon into my garage.  I left them to cure for a few weeks.  Then, I gave a bunch to Dr. Nune to be the taste tester.  She called me a few days later and said, “have you given any of those sweet potatoes away?”  I replied with a worried answer that I had not.  “Good”, she said.  “Let’s keep them only for us.  They are the best sweet potatoes I’ve ever had in my life”.  She was right… they were.

We had a endless supply of sweet potatoes to fill this basket for months.

I thought I found every last tuber in the ground when I harvested.  I worked really hard to get them all.  Well, that was several months ago and I missed many, many tubers.  The area has completely grown back again with sweet potato vines.  This is a no-no in the gardening world because it invites the dreaded sweet potato pests and diseases.  Click here  for the latest on growing sweet potatoes in Southwest Florida as told by the University of Florida IFAS office.  I’m going to harvest most of the greens in this patch for my goats.  We’ll save a few for ourselves.

Our 5-year-old was so excited that a garden was growing in our garage. These will all be replanted. They're the left-overs.

The sweet potato leaves are a delicious edible for the dinner table.  Our friend Mama Do told us that steamed sweet potato leaves are a favorite in Vietnamese cuisine.  One evening I was making dinner and realized I needed a vegetable.  I remembered what Mama Do told us and I sent the kids out to cut a bowl of leaves.  I steamed them on top of the chicken I was cooking and we have been huge fans of the leaves ever since!  Even the kids loved them… probably because they picked them.

Edible and yummy sweet potato leaves. These are heart-shaped.

This year I have planted sweet potatoes all over our yard.  There are patches everywhere and probably look like crop circles from an airplane.  They grow great in our yard because of our sandy, Florida soil.  I never water them and it hasn’t been a problem.  They tend to crowd out most of the weeds and I just weed-wack around the edges of the big circle.  They’re almost maintenance free in our yard.   They also thrive in our hot, humid, sweltering summer.

I’ve tried something new this summer and have planted some in an area with pigeon peas, sunflowers and calabaza pumpkins.  I’m hoping it turns into a crazy mess of vines and little pigeon pea trees that crowd out all the weeds.  It could be great or it could be a disaster.  Either way, it’s an experiment and I’m growing most of this to feed to our lovely goats anyway.  It’s our goat garden and I can either cut it for them or put their leashes on and lead them to it to clear it out.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

This will continue to grow and fill in. By weed wacking the edges, it turns into a big circle.

This is just a small section of the goat's garden. It will be interesting.

Come grow with us!

14 Responses to “Super Sweet Potatoes”

  1. This brought me back to my childhood were we grow amazing sweet potatoes I remember digging down for them I love sweet potatoes we called Batatas in spanish

    • You have THE BEST childhood stories! I really want to hear more of them. Can you write a book or a blog? I’m collecting pictures of iguanas so I can write a post about your AMAZING childhood adventures with them! I’ve never forgotten that story… it has to be told.

  2. Melinda Copper Says:

    there would be a lot of envious goats around here if they could read this…

  3. […] off young plants such as sweet potatoes before planting them out! On growing sweet potatoes: TwitterFacebook […]

  4. Michelle Says:

    Found your site looking for info on elderberries. Had lots of good luck with those. Reading your sweet potato entry I wondered if you’ve tried the 100# grown in 4 sq. feet method. I saw it on line for reg. potatoes and have wondered if that would work for sweet potatoes given our SW Florida heat.

  5. You have some beautiful pictures on your blog! Florida Organic Growers would like to invite you to participate in our summer snapshot contest. All you have to do is send a picture of a flower or vegetable (or some of those awesome microgreens) to our facebook page and if you have the most likes at the end of the month you will win a vinyl wall decal from PopDecal! visit our facebook page for more info:

  6. lolasanrose Says:

    I enjoyed my visit.

  7. Hi, I just wanted to know whether my sweet potato is still edible after it’s grown out vines? I’ve had a sweet potato sitting in my pantry for a weeks if not more, and now its got vines growing out of it, so I was a bit concerned that perhaps its past its eating stage and now no longer safely edible?

  8. When do you plant your sweet potatoes? I live in Tampa Bay.

    • Sarah, I don’t follow the rules of gardening too well. I’m a rebel gardener. I have lots of sweet potatoes growing now. I’ve been growing them all year. Some winters are warm for us and sometimes we have hard freezes. It can be frustrating. I always keep a cutting in a warm place just in case. The good news is that sweet potatoes are easy to grow here…almost invasive if you let them go.

  9. Hey there! Where can I find sweet potatoes to plant- do I just grab one from the store and let it go to seed? I am slowly turning my Sanibel yard into food forest- your blog gives me so much inspiration (and information!) thank you.

    A couple of more questions- have you tried peanuts? Also, have you tried composting with black soldier flies? The larvae are fantastic protein for your hens. If you guys come out to Sanibel, would love to meet and share my garden with you!

  10. never have i seen anything so beautiful except when i was growing up in my parents house.

  11. Pamela Jensen Says:

    I’m a little worried about eating the leaves. Some say they are not good for you. We live in the Rocky Mountains, and our summers are not always long. Falls can still be warm, or it can snow. We tried sweet potatoes last year for the first time, the plants were great, but the crop yielded us one tiny potato, about two inches long and half an inch wide. We wanted to give it another try so we planted again this year. The blossoms have come on late. Here it is the middle of September and they are just blossoming. How long does it take to grow a mature potato?

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