This was our first year growing sweet potatoes and it was far easier than you might think. We bought seedlings through the mail from an outfit in Tennessee and transplanted them in a small plot in our kitchen garden here in the District of Columbia, about a mile from the White House.
Within a few weeks, the sweet potato plants were sending out long vines with lots of leaves. We discovered the leaves are edible, which proved to be a great addition to our curried-okra stew. The vines started to take over part of the yard (less grass to mow) and began climbing the tomato cages (the tomatoes didn't seem to mind.)
In other words, we did next to nothing to keep these sweet potatoes going beyond a very occasional watering. Finally, it came time to harvest the sweet potatoes. A bulletin from Purdue University indicated that the plants would continue to thrive until the first freeze. But I was pretty sure the tubers must be ready to come out of the ground.
First, I pulled away all the vines. Too much for us to consume, most of them went into the compost pile. Then I began digging for potatoes with my forked spade. There must be a better way to harvest sweet potatoes, because I injured quite a few with the tines of my spade. Slowly I probed around the bed, heaving the soil and revealing our new bounty.
When I was done, we had a small pile of sweet potatoes, maybe 30 pounds worth. The bulletin from Purdue advises "curing" the potatoes for storage by keeping them in a humid environment around 80 degrees for one or two weeks. Since I don't have a humid, 80-degree environment, I spread the sweet potatoes in a bread rack and they now reside temporarily in our foyer.
What to do with 30 pounds of sweet potatoes? That seems to be the question of the hour, something we will be pondering while the potatoes "cure." I have a favorite recipe for a sweet potato salad with pecans and a maple-orange dressing. Beyond that, we don't consume a lot of sweet potatoes--yet.
Perhaps we should start thinking of options for storing them. Perhaps our readers have some suggestions?