We have waited months to tell you about our sweet potato gold. Alright, they aren’t gold but harvesting sweet potatoes sure feels like digging for gold, and we were so excited to tell you about it. The sweet potato post was on the blog schedule and when I sat down to look at pictures and start writing, there were no pictures to be found.
I had accidentally left my camera pouch at my parents over Thanksgiving. The memory card inside it had all of the pictures of the harvest on it. When I got the pouch back at Christmas, I may have burst into “reunited and it feels so good.”
So without further ado, I bring to you the long lost sweet potato post.
Before I dive into telling you about the harvest, I have to take you back to the day we planted the sweet potato slips. This bed was such a baby. No wattle fence, and the kale had yet to dominate the space. We had never grown sweet potatoes before, but we knew they were a favorite snack and something we use to replace meat in different recipes. It was only natural for us to grow it in the garden.
We planted 12 slips bought from Sow True Seed, back in the spring. After weeks of heavy watering and giving them as much sunlight as we could, we started seeing some exciting growth. Our first year of growing sweet potatoes was moving along nicely. We shared their beauty months later on social media, here when they were flourishing.
Vines were growing beautifully along and around our wattle fence. As harvest time grew closer, Ryan and I were getting excited about picking the sweet potato greens for cooking. He had read about an interesting recipe in Garden and Gun. We would have acted faster had we known that just a few weeks later a deer would have a late night meal on us.
Oh the highs and lows of gardening. At least we were close to harvesting and it didn’t totally set us back.
To loosen the dirt and gently remove the growing sweet potatoes below, Ryan used a spade fork. (No potatoes were harmed in the making of this post.) He carefully dug in well outside of the rooted vines and lifted the soil working his way towards the middle.
In order to access all of the sweet potatoes, we had to carefully remove the kale as we worked the soil. By keeping roots intact, we were able to replant them after the sweet potato harvest.
Unlike a crop that grows above ground, we didn’t know what kind of harvest we would get. I think I cheered with each one dug up. (Would you have expected anything different out of me?) Even the little ones got some love.
We are always feeling like we can improve, and the sweet potato harvest wasn’t an exception. As first timers, we were pleased with this harvest, but next season we would like to yield more.
Curing is when you allow the sweet potatoes to sit for 1-2 weeks in high humidity. This triggers development of the sugar-creating enzymes (released during cooking) and gives the potatoes a second layer of skin, healing any wounds during harvesting.
To create the ideal curing environment, we had to get a little crafty.
Ryan grabbed an extra tote we had in the shed and placed two water filled Nalgene bottles inside. Once the sweet potatoes were spaced out inside the tote, we lightly placed the lid on top. They were kept in a warm area inside, and every couple of days the lid was removed to give them air.
After the curing process, I put the potatoes in one of the woven baskets in our Ikea hack island for the ideal dark, dry, and airy storing space. We are definitely still learning, but as easy and tasty as these sweet potatoes are, they will definitely have many places in our garden this year.