Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes grow throughout the summer and are harvested just ahead of the first  frost. Their dense, leafy vines are nutritious; we feed them to our goats. We dig roots with pitch fork, then “cure” them for several weeks in warm, humid conditions indoors. This process significantly improves their flavor and shelf life; “fresh” sweet potatoes sold without curing won’t taste nearly as good as properly handled ones. After this, they’re very shelf-stable and can be stored through winter into spring.

In addition to the familiar orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, we also grow a white-fleshed variety. The varieties we grow are uncommon ones that we acquired from Sand Hill Preservation Center‘s impressive collection in 2009; we have been propagating them on farm ever since.

Sweet potatoes should not be washed until ready for use; this will simply reduce their shelf life. Store them in a place no cooler than the mid-50ºs; a kitchen counter or pantry is fine. Do NOT refrigerate! Sweet potatoes are a hot weather crop, and the roots can suffer chilling injury if stored in too cool of a location; after all, the roots are still alive, and you could even start more plants from them if you wanted to.

Our sweet potatoes range in size from big, plump bake-able ones to cute, thin ones, and all have their uses, though we think the small ones are often actually sweeter. The entire root can be used, though you may want to trim the very tips. Give the root a light scrub to remove any remaining soil, though don’t rub so hard as to remove skin unnecessarily. The skins are edible and nutritious, so there is generally no need to peel our organic sweet potatoes except in the case of occasional blemishes or skin discoloration. Cut the roots into whatever size/shape is desired for cooking.

Oven-roasted sweet potato coins, a great way to use small, thin roots

– Cut into cubes, fries,  or (if roots are thin) coins, toss with oil, salt, and maybe a bit of cinnamon, and roast at 450ºF for 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown
– Cut into very small dice and pan-fry with a bit of oil in a cast-iron skillet on medium heat until golden brown
– Add to vegetable soups for flavor & heft
– Bake larger specimens in the same way as white potatoes (be sure to puncture the skin in a few places before baking)
– Sweet potato pie: Use a pumpkin pie recipe, but substitute pureed, baked sweet potato for the pumpkin; or, skip the crust and bake it as a custard for an even easier dessert

Sweet potatoes store so well on their own that there’s really little need to preserve them further.