I am so excited that I had to put the title in all caps!
I LOVE sweet potatoes. I make them into fries, curries, vindaloo, and sometimes I just bake them in the microwave for a quick lunch. LOVE.
Last April I dug into the bottom of my fridge and found a small sweet potato that was way past it’s prime (yes, I keep potatoes in the fridge, it’s hot here and my pantry can get to 80 degrees, and rotten potatoes STINK!)
I cut the ends off of the potato in an attempt to salvage the middle. I was in the middle of seeding some other plants so I figured I’d try something with the potato nubs, they were starting to get “hairy”. A few years ago my daughter found a rotten sweet potato and threw it in a flower bed and it took off. The plant grew unchecked for a year because we forgot about it, and then we moved. I figured that if it took off with zero effort, I have a decent chance of getting it to happen again.
I tossed, literally tossed, the nubs into an old plastic storage tub and covered them with a few inches of recycled soil from the previous year’s miserable radish crop (we ate lots of radish sprouts, no radishes!) Note that I DID NOT start the potatoes from a slip, and that seed potatoes aren’t needed when it comes to sweet potatoes.
Within a week there was some growth.
I was amazed at how fast the plant grew, here’s a pic about two weeks after planting:
and then holy cow did they take off…and I did very, very little to tend to them.
If it was hot outside and the leaves wilted I poured a gallon of water into the tub. If it was raining too hard outside I usually left the tub alone, but I did move it under cover during a tropical storm. When the leaves started creeping out of the tub I tucked them back in.
That was it.
Last night I decided it’s been long enough and to see what became of the two little nubs.
Holy moly! I grew sweet potatoes! With barely any effort!!
Now that I know this works I’m going to be hoarding more storage containers and planting about a dozen.
1. BONUS! You can harvest and eat sweet potato leaves! I’m told they’re full of all kinds of good stuff.
2. Rotate your tub consistently to ensure even sunning. I didn’t do this and half of the container contained tiny tubers that weren’t big enough to harvest. I probably missed out on another 6 or 8 potatoes.
3. I don’t care what anyone says, growing stuff in Florida isn’t easy. Sweet potatoes like it hot, making them perfect for growing in the Florida spring, summer and fall.
4. I understand there are some moths that thrive on sweet potatoes but I didn’t encounter any, they all must have stayed on my tomatoes (now that was a fight!)
5. Do not wash your harvested sweet potatoes, rather “cure” them. Pick out any you want to use immediately, brush the rest off with a dry rag and let them sit somewhere where there is good air circulation. My potatoes were wet from the soil so I put mine in a colander on top of a bowl and turned them every 30 minutes or so until the potatoes were completely dry. Allow the potatoes to sit for a few days (I’ve heard up to 2 weeks if it’s cooler where you are) so they develop a thicker skin and any bruises can heal.
6. You’ll notice that most of my potatoes are small, though there are several that I consider “store quality”. I don’t know if this is because I didn’t leave them in the soil long enough or because they were in the container. I also didn’t use enough soil in the container as I ran out. The small potatoes are still very edible, even if they’re not baking size. Some argue that smaller potatoes have more concentrated nutrients!