Sweet potatoes come from the same family as Morning Glory and the genus Ipomoea. There are a number of different varieties, including orange, purple and white. The orange one is called Beauregard and is probably the most popular.
Sweet potatoes are low in fat and are virtually cholesterol and sodium free. They are an excellent source of vitamin A, protein and fibre and also contain good amounts of vitamin C, E and B6, folic acid, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and beta carotene. In fact, they could be called a super food.
You can use a sweet potato from the green grocers, but to be sure of certified disease free roots you need to buy from a reputable supplier. Goodman’s Seeds sell Beauregard Sweet Potato tubers at Bunning’s for about $8. The Diggers Club also sells purple and white varieties at various times. Garden Express in Monbulk will also post the tubers out.
Sweet potatoes prefer a sandy soil with a Ph of 5 – 6.5. They require a rich organic content in the soil. For those people who have clay soil, it may be necessary to grow the potatoes in raised beds.
When you have your seed potato, you need to plant it in a 30cm pot filled with good soil or potting mix. Plant it with 3cm of soil covering it and water. Keep out of the frosts.
After 4-6 weeks small shoots will develop. When these are 30cm long, cut them 3cm from the top of the soil. Cut the bottom 3 leaves off. Dig a trench 30cm deep in your prepared garden bed and plant the shoots 30cm apart. Cover with soil. They prefer full sun. Keep weed free till the vines cover the ground. Regular watering is required. Fertilizing is not necessary as added nitrogen will only make the vines grow faster at the expense of tubers forming.
Many plantings of shoots will be possible from the one seed potato. Shoots may be planted up to early January. Where each leaf is cut off the shoot, a potato will grow, giving a good crop. I have harvested between 55 and 75 kg for the past 3 years.
It takes 4-5 months to grow good size tubers. From 3 months, start checking that the soil is covering all the sweet potatoes. If they are exposed to light, they turn green like potatoes. Mound the soil up around them. Do not water for 3-4 weeks before harvest.
It is possible to bandicoot a couple of potatoes before you harvest the whole crop. Scratch around the roots area to find large tubers and gently pull them off the vine. In this way you will extend your harvest by up to a month.
When the vines go yellow it is time to gently dig the potatoes with a fork. Leave the potatoes in the sun for several hours or keep in a warm room for a few days. Brush clean, then store in a cool, dark place. Use any damaged tubers first as they will not keep. Large potatoes will keep for up to 6 months.
PESTS OR DISEASES
Curl grubs can eat into the flesh. Root-knot nematodes and fusarium wilt can also be a problem if crops are not rotated. Irregular watering can cause splitting in the sweet potatoes.
There are so many ways to cook sweet potatoes – frittatas, soups, pies, vegetable patties, damper and scones. You are only limited by your imagination. If there is too much to use, then cook and freeze for use later.
Obtained from Urban Harvest