Grow a Sweet Potato Pie


Kristi Cook 


The first year I grew sweet potatoes, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. Sweet potatoes are not only super easy to grow, but a small area is all you need to fill a year’s supply of this sweet delight. My own small, 4-feet-by-12-feet raised bed provides our family with 75 to 100 pounds of this versatile root crop — enough to make all the baked and roasted sweet potatoes, sweet potato pies, sweet potato soup, and any other creation that tempts our tastebuds for an entire year. And best of all, you only need two or three potatoes to get a perennial supply started on your homestead.

Sweet potatoes or yams?
Sadly, the sweet potato is a victim of mistaken identity. Dating as far back as colonial times, orange fleshed varieties have been routinely labeled as yams, yet they’re not yams at all. Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) belong to the the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae), while true yams (Dioscorea L) reside in the aptly named yam family (Dioscoreaceae). In the United States, only sweet potatoes are grown commercially with yams being relegated to specialty growers and markets. So despite names such as "candied yams" or "fresh, local yams," most of us are only familiar with the sweet potato.

Children often find the water jar method an exciting introduction to gardening since they can easily see daily root growth and sprout production.

Start with slips.
Sweet potatoes are not grown from seed. Instead, small shoots called slips are sprouted from a sweet potato from the previous year’s harvest. Once slips reach the desired length, they are "slipped" off the root and then planted in the ground. You can either purchase ready-to-plant slips from local nurseries, catalogs, or other growers, or you can sprout slips yourself from a sweet potato purchased at the supermarket. If going this route, select only organic varieties as conventionally grown sweet potatoes are often treated to prevent sprouting.

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