Here is the thing about homesteading, sometimes you have great success, and sometimes you have epic failures. Well, I don’t like to think of them as failures, but rather the gift of learning from the experience, and believe me, I have had plenty of these.
This post, however, is not about a failure. This is about sweet success from none other than the sweet potato. This year we ended up with pounds of sweet potatoes. How many? Honestly, I am not really sure, but it was three boxes full; and it didn’t cost us a penny to grow these.
How did I do it? With sweet potato slips, and little help from the compost pile (some the vines came up voluntarily). A slip is the vine that starts from the eye of a mature potato (Note: this is different from planting regular potatoes, like a russet, where you would plant a seed potato). You can order slips via the mail, but why bother spending money when you can easily start these at home since your probably buying sweet potatoes for a meal, and it’s a great project to do with the kids. All you need is an organic potato. Why the organic? The non-organic ones are often sprayed with a chemical that prevents sprouting. You want these puppies to sprout quickly and easily, so save yourself some time and get the organic ones. I actually started the slips from left over potatoes that I had gotten from the local grocery to feed to the chickens (they were going to dispose of the these leftovers so I snagged them).
Sweet potatoes require a long growing season (you won’t be harvesting them until the late fall right before the first frost), so it’s important to start the slips early. For a step-by-step method on how to start and plant the slips, CLICK HERE or watch this video:
They are also the gift that keeps on giving. This fits well with with our sustainability and multi-use philosophy here on the farm. The vines act as ground cover to keep out the weeds and hold in the moisture, so the bed was basically maintenance free (maintenance free gardening is always a plus). After pulling the potatoes, we were left with rich soil underneath. The vines were put back onto the beds for compost and then they will be covered with manure and grass clippings. This will sit throughout the winter and be ready for another planting in the spring (Yes, I know that goes against the composting rules, but trust me, this will work and it is WAY easier than doing it the “normal” way). I am sure that there were some potatoes left in the ground that will sprout again next spring, and you will get no complaints about that from us. Several of the potatoes from the harvest will be used to produce slips for the upcoming spring planting.
Now the question is, what to do with all these potatoes? Besides freezing them, it will be fun to try some new recipes. How about sweet potato ice cream, or sweet potato fly? Here are 10 Weird Sweet Potato Recipes.
And now I will leave you with seven fun facts about sweet potatoes:
- They are actually related to morning glories.
- They are not a “true potato.” Nor are they yams. True potatoes belong to the nightshade family which include tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. Yams are grown in Africa and Asia and are related to lilies.
- They love the heat. They need the heat, which is why they do so well here in southeast Texas.
- Not only are they a great source of beta-carotene, but they also are a good source of vitamin A vitamin C, and are full of manganese, calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin B6 and fiber.
- Unlike potatoes, you can eat the whole plant, a permaculturalist’s dream come true! The leaves, shoots, and stems are all edible.
- Columbus was reportedly responsible for spreading the sweet potato throughout the New World, including the present-day United States. Spanish explorers carried the sweet potato everywhere, even as far as Asia. The Portuguese carried sweet potatoes even further, into India.
- North Carolina has been the leading U.S. producer of sweet potatoes since 1971