5 secrets of harvesting and storing sweet potatoes from the founders of the Sweet Potato Farm
Exotic root vegetable sweet potato - the culture is quite rare, therefore it raises many questions even among experienced gardeners. As the popularity of this vegetable grows from year to year, more and more summer residents plant an unusual culture in their beds and look forward to the harvest. But many would like to know when the cherished time comes, allowing you to start harvesting the long-awaited root crops? And most importantly - how to save yam in winter? My husband and I have been successfully cultivating “sweet potatoes” in a temperate climate (Voronezh region) for five years, having founded the “Sweet Potato Farm”. Therefore, the recommendations below are based solely on our personal practical experience.
1. How to determine when the sweet potato is ready for harvesting?
Since “sweet potato” is a very thermophilic culture, determining the optimal time for digging tubers is the most important task, the correct solution of which will help not to lose a significant part of the crop. In fact, the interval during which it is necessary to start digging the sweet potato is quite short. And at the same time, in order for the harvest to work in the best way, several important factors have to be taken into account.
First of all, we draw your attention to the fact that sweet potato is a crop with a long growing season (90-180 days from the moment the cuttings were planted in the ground), so the later we start digging root crops, the richer the crop can be expected (of course, subject to the right care).
Due to the long growing season, the harvesting of "sweet potatoes" usually begins not with the onset of complete biological maturity of root crops, but at a time when it is already dangerous to leave heat-loving sweet potatoes in the beds. Depending on the region, the dates for digging “sweet potatoes” may be delayed.
As for the middle zone of Russia, the harvest of root crops of sweet potatoes usually falls in mid-late September, and under the most favorable conditions it can be carried out in the beginning of October. The last word here is always the weather. In order for the excavation to be successful, two decisive factors must be taken into account - air temperature and precipitation.
Despite the onset of the calendar autumn and the reduction of warm days, it is still impossible to rush with the harvest, because it is in the autumn that the most intensive mass of root tubers is recruited, and yams are getting heavier literally every day. But as soon as the air temperature drops to +10 degrees in the afternoon, the metabolism of the plants stops and the further stay of root crops in the garden becomes meaningless.
Tip: you should not wait for the period when the night temperature begins to drop below +6 degrees, but also do not dig the crop before a significant drop in temperature.
In general, if weather forecasts are optimistic and another wave of heat is expected in the near future, then do not grab the shovel. When weather forecasters do not promise "Indian summer" or even threaten the first serious freeze, it is not worth delaying the harvest. The tender tops of sweet potato can not stand even the lightest frost. After the death of the aerial parts of the plants, the tubers lose additional protection in the form of thick foliage and it is better not to leave them in cold soil for more than two days.
Another important component of harvesting is soil moisture. Young root potatoes of “sweet potato” are quite brittle and difficult to remove from damp, heavy soil without causing damage. Therefore, if a rainy period is expected in the near future, it is better to hurry with digging the crop. For the same reason, in dry autumn, it is necessary to stop watering the sweet potato beds approximately two weeks before the start of the proposed excavation.
2. Shovel or pitchfork - the better to dig a sweet potato?
Often, harvesting sweet potatoes resembles archaeological work. Depending on the variety and growing conditions, “sweet potato” has a different depth and type of occurrence of tubers. In individual cultivars, the root system can be compactly arranged and the crop can be found directly under the bush ("Afghan", "Beauregard", "Manchurian"), while others strive to spread the tubers as far from the planting site ("Muscat", "Garnet", "Ginseng").
Sometimes, to find such "losses", you have to literally dig a whole trench. So for harvesting sweet potatoes it will not be superfluous to purchase a strong shovel with an elongated bayonet. To avoid the danger of accidentally chopping a tuber, you can also dig a “sweet potato” using a pitchfork. In addition, they make this process physically easier. True, digging deep holes with a pitchfork is not too convenient. Therefore, the choice here is yours.
Before starting harvesting the sweet potato, it is recommended that you first clear the top of the top of the bed by cutting long vines with pruning shears. In this case, it is better not to cut the whips completely, but to leave small stumps above the surface of the earth, indicating the location of the bush.
3. How to prepare yams for laying for storage?
After the root tubers are removed from the soil, it will not be superfluous to rinse them well under running water, since during storage the “sweet potato” skin coarsens, and subsequently it will be more difficult to wash off the stubborn dirt. In addition, unlike ordinary potatoes, sweet potatoes are often eaten with peel.
In order for the root potatoes of the sweet potato to lie down without problems until spring, before laying it for storage, it is necessary to carry out another important procedure, which is usually called “treatment” or “bath” among the breeders. The first name of the procedure is due to the fact that it is mainly aimed at “healing”, i.e. to overgrow all existing damage on the surface of root crops, as well as the junction of tubers with the stem.
But such an event is called a “bathhouse” because the healing of wounds and the growth of a new denser peel in sweet potato occurs under the influence of higher temperatures and high humidity. To organize a “sweet potato bath”, the boxes with the crop are placed in a room with a constant temperature of + 30 ... + 35 ° C and a humidity of 80%. Moreover, it is not necessary to purchase special moisturizers for this purpose; it will be enough to simply cover the root tubs laid out with a thin layer with a dense, damp cloth and moisturize it regularly as it dries.
At home, the “treatment” of sweet potatoes can be realized by simply placing containers covered with wet cloth with sweet pot close to the battery. Usually it is sufficient to conduct such a "bath" for 5-7 days. The main indicator that the procedure was successful is the formation of a denser peel and the formation of abrasions on the peel. In addition, it is believed that due to the "treatment" the taste of sweet potato becomes more pronounced.
4. How to store sweet potatoes in winter?
To understand how to preserve sweet potatoes in the winter, you need to recall the southern origin of plants, and in no case try to send root crops to the cellar, like ordinary potatoes. In a typical basement, sweet potatoes quickly become slimy and moldy. But the usual city apartment will have to "sweet potatoes" to the liking.
It is better to choose for these purposes the coolest corners of the premises, since the optimal storage temperature of the sweet potato is from +15 to +20 degrees. At higher temperatures, individual varieties may begin to germinate over time. However, this usually happens closer to spring and is not as intense as that of potatoes.
Do not rush to give up on sweet potato if you are not impressed with the taste of freshly dug tubers. The fact is that over time, starch, which is rich in root tubers of sweet varieties, gradually turns into sugar. In order for the crop to acquire a more saturated taste, it is recommended to eat “sweet potato” in food, having waited at least a month after digging. And the richest flavoring palette of an exotic vegetable becomes in the New Year area.
5. Important features of growing and eating sweet potatoes
Small thin tubers of “sweet potato” should be eaten first of all, because during storage they dry out and deteriorate very quickly.
If you come across tubers with green, then you do not need to cut such sections at all. After all, sweet potato is not a potato, and its root tubers, which have turned green under the influence of the sun, are quite edible and do not contain any harmful substances.
You can get a very good increase to the crop if you initially planted sweet potatoes under the film. The soil in this case warms up faster, which is very important for the southern root crop. In warmer regions, the film can lead to excessive overheating of the soil, and non-woven material is better for mulching it.
In order not to lose “sweet potatoes” in the crop, you need to keep in mind that sweet potato is a creeping vine that is rooted in the places where the shoots come into contact with the ground, so it is important to periodically tear the vines from the soil surface. If you have not used this technique, then you should not spend time searching for a crop in places of newly rooted stems, because high-quality tubers do not tie such roots.
So that the tubers do not scatter too much and do not go to the depth, it is recommended to plant the sweet potatoes in bulk ridges. Such a technique not only facilitates harvesting, but also doubles the overall yield. Moreover, the ridge covered with a dark film is almost the only way to get a decent sweet potato crop in the latitudes north of Voronezh, Gomel and Saratov.
In the more southern regions, it does not make much sense to leave sweet potatoes in the beds longer than the average growing season of a particular variety, as in large-fruited varieties (Manchurian, Tynung, Red Ginseng) this can lead to cracking of tubers. Cultivars with medium-sized root tubers (Purple, Bayu Bell, Belva) may remain uncleaned longer.
When sweet potato tubers “run away” far from the garden or are laid too deep in the soil, this often indicates that the plants did not have enough watering or nutrients.
Curved root tubers are usually obtained in too dense soil. There is also an opinion that the preliminary cultivation of sweet potato seedlings in cups leads to the curvature of the tuber.