Ah, the sweet potato harvest again. Since starting my garden (2008), I’ve tried growing several kinds of vegetables and fruit, with mixed success. But sweet potatoes have been my fail-safe staple crop. And this vegetable is one of the most nutritious things you can eat.
The sweet potato is a source of complex carbohydrates and they’re loaded with more-or-less every vitamin you can think of, plus protein, iron, calcium, potassium and fiber. They contain almost no fat, but you can fix that by adding lots of butter, along with brown sugar and nutmeg and then baking. The result is absolutely delicious.
Sweet potatoes grow in vine-like fashion, and during the course of the summer, 10 or 12 small plants will take over a 95 square foot garden bed. So to harvest the potatoes, the obvious first-step is to clear away the vines. But I don’t discard the greens.
Sweet potato leaves are also edible, so I cut off the better looking ones into a pail for the kitchen. When saute’d with a little garlic and balsamic vinegar, they are a tasty and nutritious side dish. The remaining leaves and vines may be composted, but I put them out for the horses to eat.
Although the vines spread all over the bed, most of the potatoes are concentrated around the center-base of the plant. Some sweet potatoes grow in odd shapes, and I’m careful how I dig them out – I don’t want to break them.
Once in awhile I’ll find a super-sized potato. Because we had plenty of rain this year, I found several super-sizers. Just one of these is enough sweet potato for Thanksgiving dinner.
As I work my way across the garden bed, I place old boards down as steps, just to minimize the mud and keep from crushing the soil too badly. After a couple of hours, about one third of the garden bed has been cleared.
After the potatoes have been pulled up, they are washed and dried. Laying them out in the sunshine is the best way to dry them.
After the potatoes have dried, they are put away somewhere cool where they will keep for a very long time. After cleaning out the storage rack in the basement, I had 7 potatoes left over from last year. The skin on the old potatoes was a little darker, thicker and more rough, but otherwise not much different from the new potatoes.
This year was an especially good yield, probably for several reasons. We had increased rain and the soil condition was better than it has ever been. But most important – the deer were not able to eat the leaves. I used electronic motion-detecting Scarecrows which activate a sprinkler when they sense any movement. They were very effective.
For each of the previous years, I’ve harvested between 50 and 70 pounds of sweet potatoes. This year’s take was 190 pounds.