People eat sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, leaves around the world. While the tubers are a good source of carbohydrates, the leaves are rich in vitamin B, ßcarotene, iron, calcium, zinc and protein. Young, tender leaves are a good addition to green salads. The edible flowers are a beautiful garnish.
Sweet potatoes are the earliest thing I grow. Just impale a sweet potato with toothpicks or skewers and plunge it into a glass of water. Soon you will have fresh greens at a time of year when leafy vegetables are in short supply.
Plus, you are growing sweet potato slips ready in time for planting season.
Checking on a tray of homegrown sweet potatoes, I discovered as few potatoes were sprouting. So, I decided to start growing them in water jars just to see something green.
For the past two years, I’ve ordered sweet potato slips from a certified grower. I recommend that you do that so you can try a variety of sweet potatoes and choose your favorite for taste and compatibility in you garden.
This year, three varieties will grow the full circle. Starting plants from 2017 sweet potato harvest to growing the 2018 sweet potato crop. The complete cycle for my homegrown organic potatoes.
Planting and growing a whole new crop from my own sweet potato.This years crop is White Hayman, Beauregard and, Carolina Ruby. Grown from my stock, but I will be trying more varieties next year.
These companies have delivered strong, healthy starts to my door at just the right time.
• Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Timing is everything when it comes to sweet potatoes. First, takes 6 weeks to get sweet potato slips that are ready to be planted in warm garden soil. Then, it may take 100 days or more to grow a crop. That’s a long growing season.
When the sprouts are about 5 to 6 inches long, it’s time to remove them from the potato. Grasp a sprout near the base and pull sideways. The sprout will pull away from the potato.
Place all the sprouts in another jar of water. In a very few days you will see little white roots begin to form and quickly grow from the sprouts. In about two weeks, the roots are ready to plant.
Pot them, or plant directly into the garden. Keep them well watered and weeded until established. Vines will grow quickly, smothering out weeds.
Growing my own sweet potato slips saves the cost of buying and shipping. But, I like the idea of completing the full growing cycle and being self-sufficient. It’s assuring to know where my food comes from.
Sweet Potato Greens
the new super food
Researchers report that sweet potato leaves are an excellent source of antioxidative polyphenolics, among them anthocyanins and phenolics, and are superior to other commercial vegetables. Harvest the top, tender first 4 inches of the vine for fresh eating raw.
Sweet potato leaves contain as many vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as spinach. The oxalic acid in sweet potato leaves is less than one fifth that of spinach. The leaves are not as bitter as chard or kale and they have a softer texture.
Eat sweet potato leaves as a vegetable, in noodles and breads and as a tea. Try cooking them like you do spinach or chard. Harvest greens about once a month, April through October.
Cooking tips: Saute the leaves with a little onion and garlic. Or, stir-fry and season with a little maple syrup.
Also, consider these sources:
- Sweet and savory sweet potato leaves
- Baked Sweet Potato with Greens I’ve made this Martha Stewart recipe with sweet potato leaves instead of chard.
Growing car parts: The Toyota Motor Company, in cooperation with Mitsui Company, is producing biodegradable plastics from sweet potatoes . Nearly 30 percent of Toyota’s plastic automobile parts will be replaced with biodegradable ones within ten years. Toyota Motor Company also envisions sweet potato use in the future as an energy source, much like alcohol and hydrogen.
* The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Cooperative Extension Program.