The 1/2-acre planted with sweet potato slips last spring has yielded over 1 ton of potatoes and 1600 lbs of vines.
Sweet potato harvesting is quite a process: First, the vines of the plants are pulled out and bagged for delivery to the ARC of Montgomery and Community Support Services (CSS). Sweet potato greens are a favored food for people from Asia and Africa.
Next, the black plastic mulch has to be removed from the rows. It can feel like miles of plastic as the weeds resist our tugging. Every now and then a little garter snake is exposed and causes a little excitement. Third, the drip tape which irrigated the beds all summer is collected for re-use next year.
Finally, Matt gets the Yanmar tractor, fitted with the potato plow, and with a little toot-toot on its horn, exposes the buried treasure of orange spuds. Growers and volunteers swarm the field to collect the potatoes.
You might think that is all there is to the story and that the sweet potatoes would be ready to eat. But it takes another week of storage in the heated (85-90 degrees) and steamy (80% humidity) root cellar to “cure” the potatoes. This seals the wounds and allows the sugars to develop. Another few weeks of storage at lower temperatures assures that the sweet potatoes will be as tasty as they can be.