Sweet Potato prefers a sunny location and rich, fertile, well-drained soil that can be enriched with organic matter. These are the vegetables to be grown in warm climates but can be grown in cool climates as long as there are five months of warm days and nights. The tubers can be directly planted in the ground but it always advisable to produce cuttings from sprouted tubers. As the weather warms during spring, place the tuber in a box of damp sand, cover with 5 cm (2 in) of sand, and let the tuber sprout. When the sprouts are 15-30 cm long, cut them from the parent tuber, remove all the leaves from the sides, except those on the tip, and plant the cuttings outdoors. Space them 50 cm (20 in) apart in rows 1 m (3 ft) apart. Water them regularly until the roots develop. The roots and the edible tubers grow where the stem nodes touch the ground. Each plant produces about eight tubers. The vines can be grown over a climbing frame to maximize your space.
Sweet Potato Harvesting:
Harvest the tubers only when the vines turn yellow and die in autumn. The tubers form away from the base of the plant, so use to fork to dig them carefully. Store the tubers in a cool, dry place for up to five months.
Buying and Storing Sweet Potatoes:
Buy sweet potatoes that have smooth and blemish free skin. Avoid the ones with a trimmed tip. Store them in a cool, dry place for not more than a week.
Health Benefits of Sweet Potato:
These are a remedy for anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, fever, bug bites, and stomach. The orange skin sweet potatoes deliver a dose of beta-carotene, which might play a pivotal role in reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. The purple fleshed potatoes contain anthocyanins that help in neutralizing toxins and damaging free radicals in digestive systems.
Sweet Potato Varieties:
- Beauregard - Widely known variety with reddish orange skin and dark orange flesh.
- Hawaiian Sunshine - Tubers with off-white skin and purple flesh.
- Northern Star - Reddish purple tubers with creamy white flesh.
Reference - The Ultimate Book of Vegetables by Reader's Digest