A Sweet Potato Primer

The calendar reads March already and I have a bad case of garden fever! My Mom is back today with an idea that will bring a little green into my home, provide some economical plants for the garden – and will make a great home school project as well! Now that definitely works for me!

Growing A Sweet PotatoPapa and I always experiment with one new item in our garden every year. Several years ago we tried sweet potatoes and they’ve become a “regular”!

The first year we trembled at the price of the purchased plants! Then we found out that we could grow our own plants by “rooting” a store bought sweet potato.

Every year in late February, we purchase a sweet potato or yam from the produce department at our local grocery store.

Then we stick toothpicks into the sides of the potato to hold it up above a container of water -a recycled jar works just fine.

We try to find the top or the part that was connected to the vine. The opposite end should go into the water.

We keep the water level up to the top of container and watch for roots from the part under the water. It won’t be long before we see some sprouts growing on the part above the water.

We let those green sprouts grow to about 3 or 4 inches long before we pinch them off the potato and put them in a container of water. They will make roots.

Once they have made some roots, we plant these in small pots until they can be planted in the garden.

Meanwhile , the potato in the water will keep making new sprouts. One potato should easily give us a dozen plants.

When the soil is warm enough, and all danger of frost is gone, we plant each plant on top of a mound of soil about 6 inches tall. (This gives the potato space to grow without having to dig a foot deep in the fall!) The plant will vine and the vines will root where they touch the soil. To prevent this from happening mulch mounds with newspaper or simply lift the vines often.

You can dig potatoes whenever you “feel” under the vine on top of the mound and discover a potato big enough to eat! We wait until the first frost. (Sweet potatoes will not tolerate a frost!)  We dig them carefully and lay them out to dry. If you have a cool place to store them – they will keep for several months.

In our modern houses without root cellars, sweet potatoes are not the best keepers for eating fresh all winter, but they do freeze well. We try to keep them as long as we can, then freeze the rest.

Sweet PotatosTo cook a sweet potato, scrub it, prick it with fork, and bake in a 350 degree oven until soft when squeezed. Let them cool until you can handle them to peel off the skins.

Place the sweet potatoes in freezer bags or containers, label and freeze. Just thaw and use in your favorite sweet potato recipes.

Or you can cook them in the microwave. Just scrub, prick skin and place in microwave. Bake for 5 min on high and check for softness. Continue baking until they are soft, checking every 3 minutes. Peel and serve or freeze.

Our favorite way to enjoy fresh sweet potatoes is to eat them warm from the oven with Cinnamon/Honey Butter

Cinnamon/Honey Butter:

2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Mix together. This stores well in the refrigerator for several weeks. This is really good on toast and squash, too!

Until next time!

Nana Shirley

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