27 May 2011

Sweet or Carolina Potatoes


Old-timers with a nice pile of harvested sweet potatoes

The Sweet or Carolina Potato, has of late been cultivated in New England with wonderful success. They have ever been raised in great abundance in the southern states, and many have found their way to our markets, where they found a ready sale, at an exorbitant price. It must be very pleasing to our yeomanry, to know that this most delicious root, can so easily be raised in Massachusetts, as it is stated to be in our newspapers and other periodical literature of the day.

It is advisable to plant out the slips early in the season, as soon as the ground becomes dry in April, and choose a high warm situation. The slips may be procured at the seed store of the New England Farmer, 52 North Market Street, Boston. A writer in Taunton Advocate, gives the following mode of cultivating them:

“I raised the last season (1828) a bushel and a half of sweet potatoes from thirty hills, an average lot of them were exhibited at the Cattle Show in Mansfield. They were from six to eight inches in circumference, and from six to twelve inches long. I planted them in hills, which were about the size of a bushed basket, and made as near together as the soil would permit; so that the bases of the hills nearly touched each other. The slips were cut in two, and three pieces were put in each hill, about eight inches apart, and covered an inch or so with the earth.

All the attention which was paid to them after planting was merely pulling up the weeds with the fingers until the potatoes  made their appearance. The vine grows with great rapidity, and soon covers the hills, so that no further attention is necessary. The soil best suited for the potato is a light sandy loam, manured with compost or house dung, spread and ploughed in.  


Sweet Potatoes

I was attracted to this 181-year-old almanac excerpt because I plan to grow sweet potatoes in my upstate N.Y. garden this year, and it will be a first for me. Very few gardeners I know of in these parts grow sweet potatoes, but I have a homesteading neighbor who grows a lot of them and has done so for years. He even uses his potatoes from one year to sprout slips which he plants to grow the next year's crop. That's sustainable agriculture for you.

Sweet potato slips, ready for planting

If, like me, you've never grown sweet potatoes (especially here in the North) it may seem like a hard thing to do. But the 1830 farm almanac excerpt for today makes it sound easy, and my neighbor says it's easy. Like so many other such things, it only seems difficult if you've never done it before.

As a  matter of fact, I will be planting some Beauregard sweet potato slips tomorrow, May 28, 2011. I will plant them as explained in an excellent article in the current issue of Mother Earth News magazine (June/July 2011). The article is by Ken Allen, who lives in Canada and has been growing sweet potatoes for 37 years. Allen is author of the book, Sweet Potatoes For The Home Garden. The book is now out of print but you can read about it and get some insights at This Link.

Why grow sweet potatoes? Well, they are remarkably good for a body (far more nutritious than "Irish" potatoes). They store well (if properly cured, as the Mother Earth article explains), and if you grown your own slips, from your own sweet potatoes, you can be sweet potato self sufficient for the rest of your life. Oh, and they taste good too— I'm partial to baked sweet potato fries.

Baked sweet potato fries.


The next issue of Agrarian Nation will feature a lengthy essay titled Culture of Roots from Thomas's 1871 almanac.

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Anonymous said...

I grew sweet potatoes last year, for the first time. I didn't know much at the time, but we planted them in clay pipes, turned upright, and filled with topsoil. The ground underneath was clay, so a few were misshapen but they still tasted fine.

I took some store-bought sweet potatoes and suspended them in a jar of water, using toothpicks around the circumference, and put them on the windowsill. It took several weeks for roots and leaves to develop, so you have to start early and have some patience!

I didn't know about cutting slips from the leaves, so I planted the whole potato! But we still had a good harvest, and are planting again this year. They are very easy to grow!

Sweet potato fries are my husband's favourites, too! I was also very excited to discover that the leaves are edible! Use them in a salad or steamed as a vegetable. I'm looking forward to trying it!

Here is a link that may be helpful:

timfromohio said...

We grew them for the first time last year up here in NEOhio. Put in one row of about 25 slips. This yielded 3 or 4 five gallon buckets worth of sweet potatoes - not the best looking I've ever seen, but very, very tasty. After planting I let the vines grow a bit, then put a double layer of newspaper all around each plant and mulched with dry grass clippings. Did NOTHING else to them the rest of the season and we got enough for our family of four as well as sharing with friends. The kept in the garage for quite sometime.

Anonymous said...

The tender tips and leaves make some of the best greens there are. We grow sweet potatoes as much for the greens as for the roots.

Practical Parsimony said...

I live in Alabama. Beauregards are the best variety of sweet potatoes around. Actually, Georgia Jets are best but don't store well. I buy 120 lbs of Georgia Jets just for me, company I may have, and give anything left to my three hens who love sweet potatoes.

Practical Parsimony said...

Ooops, I buy 230 lbs of Beauregards is what I meant. Bake and use the mashed up inside in a recipe of pumpkin bread instead of pumpkin.

patricia prieto said...

Loved reading thiis thank you