Storing Sweet Potatoes

A few years ago I read about a method of growing potatoes in garbage cans. I’ve tried it a few times and found sweet potatoes do best in the cans. I never got much yield from the white potatoes I planted in cans, but I am always delighted by the sweet orange ones come fall!

This year I filled four big cans with a mix of garden soil from the store and compost from my pile. I planted sweet potato slips around the top and then forgot about them all summer. They were in a spot that got sun at least half the day, and the vines just grew and grew and grew all summer. I think sweet potatoes must be one of the easiest plants to grow.

When I had the middle school from Xavier’s Montessori lab school visiting in October, I thought harvesting sweet potatoes would be a good project for them. Usually I wait until a first frost has browned the leaves, but the vines were still green and vigorous when we pulled them. I compromised a bit in order to take advantage of all those eager young people to help with the harvest!

We pulled the vines carefully away, and began rooting through the soil for orange treasures. There were many potatoes just below the surface of the soil. We were all quite excited to pull out so many potatoes so easily. Once we got through the initial layer of potatoes, we tipped the cans over and carefully sorted through the rest of the soil for more. After all the potatoes were out, the students scooped all the leftover soil into the compost pile.

They had a lot of fun seeing all the shapes and sizes of potatoes.

For lunch they took some in to the house, peeled, sliced and roasted them for lunch. I told them about the differences between white potatoes and sweet potatoes. It was a fun and interactive farm visit.

I read about several methods of storing sweet potatoes. The one I decided to try started with wrapping the sweet potatoes in plastic bags, punched with some holes, and leaving them in a sunny spot for 10 days. This time allows the skin to harden some, helping them stay fresh in storage.

Next you wrap each potato in a piece of newspaper and place them into a box or crate.

Finally store them in a cool, dry place. The only spot I have is under the house in the crawlspace. I already put my butternut squash under there, so I lugged the boxes of sweet potatoes down too. Fingers crossed the mice won’t help themselves…

How do you store your garden bounty?

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