With their delicate, pleasing flavor and high amounts of beta-carotene, vitamin C and, dietary fiber, sweet potatoes can offer a nutritious pop of color to your plate, and serve as a hearty base for the meal. Foodies have started topping baked slices of sweet potato with avocado and microgreens like toast’s hipper gluten-free cousin. And who doesn’t love a classic sweet potato side dish during the holidays? Once you’ve got them in the kitchen, sweet potatoes are both healthy and versatile, but first they must be harvested.
At the end of May, most of our Indianapolis Learning Gardens were planted with sweet potato slips that grew into dark green vines with heart-shaped leaves. Four months later, as we approach fall, these leaves are starting to turn yellow, signaling that the sweet potatoes underground are ready to harvest. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a thorough and interesting article on growing and harvesting sweet potatoes. We’ve done our best to summarize the key points for you here.
- Remove the leafy vines and slowly explore the top 6 inches of soil with your fingers. Pull up what you find underground. The Learning Garden soil is usually loose enough to unearth sweet potatoes with your hands. Shovels and trowels can damage the vegetables, reducing your harvests. Take care not to bruise the tubers (sweet potatoes) when placing them in your harvest bucket.
- Remove excess soil with the soft bristled potato brush included in your harvest kit. Alternatively, use a dry cloth to remove excess soil. DO NOT WASH with water until you’re ready to eat them!
- Wash, peel, and enjoy your homegrown sweet potatoes.
For best flavor and shelf life, store the sweet potatoes in a warm place (about 80°F/27°C) in a single layer where they’re not touching each other for 10-14 days to cure. Once cured, they can be wrapped in newspaper and stored in a cool dark place for up to six months.
But they’re so delicious there’s no need to cure and store them. Multiple classes can enjoy sweet potatoes in the classroom, and they can be sent home for consumption within a couple of days.
As always, please make sure to weigh your harvest and report the info to Big Green so we can track our efforts to increase access to and knowledge of real food in Indianapolis. Happy Harvesting!