Wanted to experiment with planting a different type of potato this year, so you planted sweet potatoes? Also called batati in some regions because of their Latin name, they have become very popular in recent years among gardeners around the world. But today, their enormous vines seem to be invading your garden? Is this expansive growth a sign of good production? How can you tell if sweet potatoes are ripe and ready to harvest?
Although we consider it a type of potato, the sweet potato is a morning glory ((Ipomoea batatas). It can be grown as a decorative climbing plant due to its abundant foliage and beautiful white and purple flowers, but also as a food plant. Its tubers are very tasty, reminiscent of pumpkin. They are therefore perfect for both sweet and savory recipes. It’s easy to find a recipe using sweet potatoes. The hard part is to know when to take them out of the ground.
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How Do You Know When Sweet Potatoes Are Ripe?
It usually takes 85 to 120 days for sweet potatoes to mature. It may take a little longer than for the potato. You can do it in September or October, but always before the first frosts. It depends on when you planted them. But remember that sweet potato tubers are constantly growing, and when they reach their maximum, they can split. So check them out by digging one out. Usually, when sweet potatoes are ripe, the vines begin to turn yellow. But if you see black parts in late fall, that’s a sign that the plant has been hit by frost. In this case, immediately cut off the damaged parts so that they do not spread to the roots. Sweet potatoes should be harvested as soon as possible.
How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes?
How you harvest sweet potatoes is also important if you want to store them longer. The skin of sweet potatoes is delicate and easily damaged. Start by cutting the leaves. Since they are numerous, it can be difficult to expose the soil if they are not removed. It is recommended to do this when the soil is dry. If rain is forecast, do it before or a few days after.
Next, find the center of the plant and, using a garden fork, loosen the soil about 20 inches/50cm around the stem.
Then, use your hands to gently extract the plant from the soil.
To make sure all the sweet potatoes have been harvested, dig again. Some of them may still be buried.
Then lay them out in your garden under the sun for a few hours, so they can dry out a bit. But don’t leave them overnight, as the humidity in the air increases and this can damage them.
Caution: Never wash sweet potatoes after harvest. They must be dried before storing them, without adding any more moisture. Otherwise, they are prone to mold.
How to Store Sweet Potatoes?
Did you know that sweet potatoes aren’t actually sweet when they’re harvested? It takes time for starches to turn into sugars. If you taste them immediately after harvest, you may be disappointed with their flavor. That is why it is necessary to wait about 10 days before using them in your favorite recipe. During this period, you will also notice a slight change in color which will make them more intense.
The best place to keep them is a warm, well-ventilated place. After two weeks, you can store them in wooden boxes and place them in a cool, dry and dark place. In this way, they can retain their excellent quality for up to a year.
What Is the Yield of a Sweet Potato Plant?
There are different types of sweet potatoes that vary in color from purple to dark orange. The yield therefore depends on each of them. Another important factor is the distance between plants. Have you left enough space for them to develop to their full potential? If so, you can expect up to 5 tubers per plant.