Garden Chick - Notes from the Garden

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

February is Sweet Potato Month

I love sweet potatoes and in honor of sweet potato month, I thought I would consider them in this years garden. I have never grown them before. There are many varieties so visit your local nursery to see which one is good for your area. The picture here is from and given it's name Georgia Jett, I thought it would be perfect for my Georgia garden. But it is actually best suited for the northeast.

Yams and sweet potatoes are not the same thing, although we sometime use the terms interchangeably. They are both unrelated to potatoes. Sweet potatoes are in the same family as morning glories. Yams, a tuber, are from the lily family.

Sweet potatoes take about 4 months to mature, and should be planted in soil that is high in organic matter. Plant after all danger of frost in your area.

Plant the sweet potato slip (a small rooted piece of the tuber), about 12-18 inches apart in rows that are 3-4 feet apart.

While regular watering will help prevent splitting, you should stop watering about 3-4 weeks before harvest.

Provide your growing potatoes with a weed free area until the foliage grows and provides a natural mulch.
Sweet potatoes mature in 100-140 days depending on the variety. Gentle dig up your potatoes before a killing frost. Their skins bruise easily, and damaging the roots can cause them to decay in storage. After you harvest, dry the sweet potatoes for 3-4 hours. Store them in baskets or boxes lined with newspaper or straw. Place them in a dry area where the temperatures remain 80 -85 degrees for about 2 weeks. After they are cured, you can store them in baskets or boxes lined with newspaper. After they have cured, store them in a place where the temperature is 55-60 degrees (cool basement or outbuilding is a good place for this) and the humidity is high (about 85 percent). They should store well for several months. If the roots appear to be damaged or decaying, remove them.
Sweet potatoes contain carotenoids. Carotenoids help stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance. They are a better choice for diabetics than white potatoes.
I found a great recipe in the magazine MaryJanesFarm. October November 2009.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Acorn Squash with Apples and Pears.
1 acorn squash, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
2 apples, cut into 1" chunks
2 pears, cut into 1" chunks
1/2 t cinnamon, ground
6 T butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and toss with butter until evenly coated.
Place mixture in a 10" cast iron skillet, bake for 25-30 minutes
6 servings.
I like to cook the sweet potatoes in a microwave or bake in the oven until soft. Split open and add butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and pecans. Great!

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