Friday, September 26, 2014
Sweet Potato Harvest
A reader I will refer to as EC had sent me a couple of emails with recommendations for how to handle my little Sweet Potato crop and a couple of useful links on the subject as well. After the last email just a day or so ago I decided now might be the perfect time to go ahead and get the harvesting out of the way.
Why? Well the curing process is suppose to run at about 80 degrees for a few days to let the Sweet Potatoes cure properly and by good luck we are forecast to have that for the next week or so. As cool as it's been this Summer I cannot really count on those temps ever coming back once October hits in a few days so I thought now was the time.
I started out with four little Sweet Potato plants back in early May and two of them were completely killed by rabbits. The remaining two finally began spreading out over the above pictured 8'x4' raised bed and the vines rooted themselves to produce what you see in the top picture.
I am not experienced with growing Sweet Potatoes but that looks like a pretty good yield for only two plants and a small raised bed. I put the fork down next to them for scale but some of those tubers are friggin HUGE.
In reading the info sent by EC I found out that Sweet Potatoes should not be allowed to remain in the ground once the soil temp falls below 55 degrees which usually happens about the first frost. While I can usually count on not really having a frost until at least the end of October around here this year has been cooler than normal and with some night time temps already dipping into the 40's I thought it would be a good time to go ahead and get it out of the way.
The curing period lasts a few days and should be set at around 85 to 90 degrees with high humidity. By harvesting them now I should be able to hit these temps and humidity levels easily by placing the potatoes in my work shop as it retains heat pretty well this time of year.
During the process the starches will change into sugars and a scab-like skin will form over any nicks and dings. The outside layer of skin will turn into a waxy substance called suberin that seals the potato like a plastic bag and holds out moisture.
A few other things I noticed about growing these plants for the first time. They vines really cut back on the weeds inside the bed. The only weed that appeared to be able to grow within the Sweet Potato bed was the thrice damned Johnson Grass roots. These plants proved very low maintenance, I watered them a good amount but only because the sheep water trough was right there by the bed so I didn't have to make any special plans to keep em moist. Had I had a larger area the initial two plants would have spread, rooted and produced much more than the little bed I left em in. If I move up the harvesting period they might make a good field crop for over Winter stock feed as well as long as you turn em over when temperatures allow for proper curing.
Of course the final test will be finding out how they taste after curing.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!