One of my favorite vegetables to harvest with students is sweet potatoes. As one 4-year-old at Uncle Sam’s Academy for Tots put it last year, “It’s like we’re digging for treasures!”
And that pretty much sums up the whole experience. Digging in the soil and finding little (or sometimes huge) orange treasures. The joy that this act sparks is truly magical.
(Students at Uncle Sam’s harvesting sweet potatoes in 2019)
I also love that this vegetable’s harvest provides plenty to go around. For example, Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired harvested a whopping 100 pounds of sweet potatoes last year!
(Students at CCVI harvesting sweet potatoes in 2019)
Ready to harvest your sweet potatoes? Watch this quick video of Crystal, K-12 Coordinator, to learn how!
Want to know more about sweet potatoes? Check out our Vegetable Spotlight:
Vegetable: Sweet Potatoes
SYG Varieties: Beauregard
Planting Instructions: KCCG sells sweet potato plants by the dozen and they come all together in a pot, so you’ll need to separate out each individual slip before planting. Dig holes about 6-8 inches deep and about 12-18 inches apart.
- Preschool bed (3×9), plant 2 rows of 6 sweet potato plants (12 plants per bed)
- K-12 bed (4×12), plant 2 rows of 12 sweet potato plants (24 plants per bed)
Plant to Harvest Time Frame: 15-20 weeks
- Plant: mid-May to early June
- Harvest: mid-September to mid-October; before the first frost
Storage: After you harvest, let your sweet potatoes bask in the sun for a few hours to harden their skin and prolong storage. They’ll be fine to eat and store short term after laying in the sun, but for long term storage, consider curing your sweet potatoes. Curing prolongs storage life and is what kicks off sugar production, giving sweet potatoes their delicious flavor. There are a few different methods for curing, but one way is to place them in a plastic tub with the lid off centered to allow heat to build up but not be trapped or sealed off. Set the tub indoors near a sunny window for 10 days. Your goal is to create an environment that allows your sweet potatoes to sit at about 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 % humidity. Don’t worry, it still works if it’s not exact! After the 10 days, take your sweet potatoes out and cure for another month in an area that is about 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, the skin should be hard and their flavor sweet. For long term storage, put sweet potatoes in a well-ventilated space that doesn’t get below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Health Facts: That vibrant orange color you see after slicing into a sweet potato is thanks to the phytonutrient beta-carotene. Beta-carotene helps support healthy skin, vision, and respiratory health.
Recipe: For a delicious fall themed breakfast, try this sweet potato pancake recipe from the blog, The Natural Nurturer.