Mary's Veggie Garden

March 26, 2010

Eating from the Garden in Winter: Sweet Potatoes

Filed under: Gardening,Root Cellar,Sweet Potatoes,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 8:51 am

Although I’ve been growing vegetables for decades, I did not plant sweet potatoes until 2005. I never suspected that sweet potatoes could be grown in New York State. Indeed, they grow quite easily. They also store quite well; they are excellent keepers.

Sweet potatoes from storage 3/21/2010

The trick to storing sweet potatoes is to cure them properly. Curing changes the potatoes’ starch to sugar and allows any cut areas to heal over. The standard directions for curing say to keep the sweet potatoes in a very warm place with high humidity for a couple weeks after harvest.

Typical conditions in the Hudson Valley during October harvest are cool and dry with 50% humidity, far from the ideal for curing sweet potatoes. I tried to compensate by keeping them at room temperature in very high humidity for a longer time.  I  piled some potatoes in a huge bowl covered with a towel to keep in the humidity. The rest went into covered plastic storage containers. I kept bowl and containers in the kitchen for about 6 weeks to cure the potatoes.

Results: the towel covered bowl worked well. After curing some of the potatoes had tiny nubbins of new sprouts. The lids of the plastic containers kept the humidity too high. Most of those potatoes had grown tiny slips with baby leaves. These nubbins and slips are at the top of the potatoes in the picture. Both methods produced sweet SPs that have stored well.

After curing, the sweet potatoes can be stored in a place with lower temperature and humidity. Mine are stored in a single layer on shelves in my unheated basement.

Eating: use small or damaged sweet potatoes first. Long slender sweet potatoes tend to dry out during storage. At harvest some sweet potatoes had skin that is partially black. (I haven’t figured out the cause.) Those potatoes are still edible and they will keep 3-4 months, but around February – March these black skinned potatoes got dry rot. The left potato in the photo has dry rot on the bottom so I removed the bottom third before cooking.

Last fall so many of my sweet potatoes were split, cracked or otherwise damaged that we are still eating the damaged potatoes in late March. The potatoes continued to sweeten over the winter and are now quite sweet.

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