Sweet Potatoes

I love growing Sweet Potatoes! All things considered, they are a fairly easy crop to grow. At the end of May, you just stick some little plants, called slips, into the ground and at the end of the season you dig up these enormous sweet potatoes. In between, you just watch the vines grow bigger and bigger. This past year, I grew two different varieties: the trusted Beauregard and Puerto Rico, a sweet, light colored variety.

Sweet Potatoes taking over the garden (dark foliage)

The only big problem seems to be mice and voles that like to eat the sweet potatoes and built entire nest under the safety of the abundant foliage. They seem to move in sometime in August. So far, the only way to control these critters seems to be with old fashioned mouse traps baited with a piece of apple. I put down the traps in the late afternoon and usually I will have caught at least one critter by the next morning. I just keep setting traps until they stay empty. It may seem a bit cruel, but the mice/voles don’t suffer like they would in glue traps and there is no poison that might harm other animals.

I store the sweet potatoes in a closet. The first time I ever grew sweet potatoes, I stored them in our unheated garage with the regular potatoes. Well, that was not a good idea. Sweet potatoes do not like to be cold, so they all rotted. That is why they are now in the closet of our guest room.

Peeled Sweet Potatoes: Puerto Rico (top) and Beauregard

Not only do I love to GROW sweet potatoes, my family also loves to EAT them. Our favorite dish is not the traditional mashed sweet potatoes, but sweet potato “fries”. Here is how I make them. I start by peeling the potatoes (this is where those gigantic ones come in handy; one sweet potato is enough for an entire meal).

Then I cut the potatoes into strips that look like french fries. Most recipes will tell you to put the “fries” in a bowl and toss them with oil and salt. However, I don’t really like to do dishes, so I just put the “fries” onto cookie sheet and pour olive oil straight over them. I also add salt, pepper and rosemary! I twirl the sweet potato fries around with may hands and spread them out in a single layer (my poor gardening hands seem to really appreciate being coated in olive oil as well!)

Ready to go into the oven
All done!

I stick the cookie sheets in a preheated oven (425 degrees) for about 20-25 minutes. When they come out, they are all nice and crisp and they smell amazing. Add them to a plate with some green vegetables and all of a sudden, you have a very colorful meal. I hope I convinced you to give sweet potatoes a try in 2013.

Sweet Potato “fries” and a slaw made with winter veggies

15 Comments on “Sweet Potatoes

  1. Sigh… you forgot that Sweet Potato leaves make fantastic greens! Cook them up without the stems (or tender stem ends) for a fantastic pot of greens. And as many leaves as I ate this year, my sweet potatoes just kept on growing! And I harvested a bushel of tubers from just 5 plants.


  2. I tried Sweet potatoes this year for the first time. I was having allkinds of problems with Harlequin Beatles eating up my greens. I had two grocery store sweets that i grew slips from and planted in early summer. I have not desire to dig in the hard ground so into a big wide rectangular plastic container they went. Well… the vines grew EVERYWHERE!! I was so excited! But being a novice… I left Them in the ground too long. there are a ton of sweets in that lil container but the began to rot. I want to try a different variety this year (just need to find where to get them) and plan to get them out of the ground in a timely fashion :). My kids love them roasted with pumpkin pie spices !!


  3. Hi James,

    I guess I should have mentioned the leaves. I grow so many other greens in my garden that I tend to forget about the sweet potatoes. On top of that, I tend to like raw greens better than cooked ones (except for bok choy). But your point is well taken!


  4. I was on time this year, but there have been many years that I saw the warnings about first frost, only to realize that my sweet potatoes were still in the ground. Time just seems to get away from me. Here is what you do when that does happen: cut the frost-bitten vines from the potatoes, even if you do not have time to dig them up yet and leave the vines where they are to protect your crop. Once the vines have been hit by frost, the rotting process will travel from the vines to the potatoes.

    As for the Harlequin Bugs; in my garden they seem to prefer anything in the cabbage family over all my other crops. You could plant some radishes or turnips to lure them away.

    Plenty of seed catalogs sell slips, but I am always surprised at how expensive they are.


  5. I love sweet potato talk!
    I have not seen harlequin bug on sweet potato. Could it have been another insect?
    It can be hard to find reasonably priced sweet potato slips. A few farmers still grow commercial crops and sell slips. Steele Plant Co. in Gleason, TN is an example of an online, mail-order source that some gardeners use.
    You can also grow your own slips in the spring by “bedding” some healthy roots: http://www.growit.umd.edu/VegetableProfiles/Sweet%20Potato.cfm


  6. Hi All –
    Earlier, I sent in some photos of my harvest of sweet potatoes that I grew in a self-watering container on the “Patio” area of our Frederick County MG Demonstration Garden.

    Along with those sweet potatoes, I'd like to submit a savory recipe for serving a side of sweet potatoes. I saw this recipe on TV and decided to try it since we had white potatoes, sweet potatoes & cilantro growing in both the Demo Garden & my home garden. I believe it was called “Cuban Potatoes”
    Select 3 medium size white potatoes & 2 large sweet potatoes (want 1/2 white & 1/2 sweet).
    Boil in salted water till tender, skin & mash with a fork.
    Then, mash in 2 oz of crumbled Feta cheese, 1 Tsp lemon juice and to your taste a “bundle” of finely chopped cilantro.

    Submitted by, Patricia Smith-Strawder
    NOTE: Patricia sent this recipe via the Grow It Eat It listserv. I am posting it on her behalf.


  7. I grew sweet potatoes last year in a ground bed and the potatoes ended up all over the garden, well away from the plant tops. I am considering growing them in a raised bed (10 inch high wood sides); does anyone have experience with growing them this way? Will they grow under the sides and end up outside of the raised bed?


  8. My experience was that a few of the roots burrowed under the sides of the raised beds and were difficult to dig out, but most of them stayed within bounds. The vines will, as Jon says below, spread out and may take root outside the raised bed, but you can control this easily by trimming.


  9. Same here. A few crazy roots always creep where they should not go, but that is okay. My sweet potatoes are in 6″ high beds. I am actually considering growing them in a higher bed after I saw them being grown commercially in fairly high mounds: the sweet potatoes just grew straight down from where they were planted. They were super easy to dig up and there were no way-ward stowaways at all!


  10. I have had only a moderate amount of success with sweet potatoes. Groundhogs eat all the leaves multiple times during the growing season, so my potatoes are always quite small in the fall. I spray a mint spray on the leaves to keep the ground hogs away. Doesn't work so well. Any suggestions (that will deter but not hurt the groundhogs)?


  11. I'm growing sweet potatoes for the first time and I'm in the southern hemisphere, so I'm almost ready to harvest them. Because I'm a newbie gardener, I wasn't even sure that the vines that grew were sweet potatoes. For a moment there, the flowers looked like morning glories:-)


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