Plant out May-June
A sweet potato contains around one-and-a-half times the calories and vitamin C of the ordinary garden potato. It is widely grown throughout warmer climates and is now gaining popularity in the UK using hardier cultivars and growing under protection in cooler regions. It can be boiled, roasted or cut into chips; the shoots and leaves can be cooked and used as a spinach substitute.
Grow Outdoors: If grown outdoors, sweet potatoes need moisture-retentive, free-draining soil, in a sheltered, sunny position (they are particularly happy in organic rich sand). Prepare the ground as necessary.
Use black polythene, to warm the soil and suppress weed growth. Lay the polythene over the soil several weeks before planting, from late March or April as the soil starts to warm up.
Grow the plants on in a bright, frost-free position in the greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill, until late May until early June, potting on as necessary.
‘Harden off’ before planting outdoors, in slits through the polythene.
Cover with cloches or fleece – the temperature lift makes all the difference.
Sweet potatoes are best grown from cuttings, which are not, in fact, rooted and technically called 'slips'. You would normally buy them via mail order from late April onwards. When they arrive, pot them immediately into small pots of multi-purpose compost. Keep the compost moist, using tepid water. Cover the pots with a clear plastic bag or place them in an unheated propagator, until they root.
Shop-bought tubers: These can be used but will be less robust cultivars ill-suited to outdoor growing. They are often treated with an anti-sprouting agent, so scrub them clean before planting.
Place tubers in moist vermiculite, perlite or sand in a warm propagator or airing cupboard to encourage sprouting.
Remove the shoots, with a sharp knife, when they are 5-7.5cm (2-3in) long and pot them into small pots of cutting compost and root them in a warm propagator. Treat cuttings from overwintered plants in the same way.
Tubers take four to five months to mature and are best lifted once the leaves turn yellow and die back.
Lift carefully to avoid bruising.
Tubers rot if frozen and are hard to store, so consume sweet potatoes promptly.
Sweet potatoes freeze well if they are blanched or boiled beforehand.
Eaten fresh sweet potatoes can be boiled, roasted or cut into chips; the shoots and leaves can be cooked and used as a spinach substitute.
ie: Carrotts and Parsnips
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