Sweet Potato Update

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Not too long ago I noticed that a few of the sweet potatoes stored under the kitchen counter had begun to sprout, one of them quite copiously. They’d been under there approximately three months. Had they been stored too long, or at too high of a temperature? Or had it been too humid under there for them? I did a little research. The optimal temperature for sweet potato storage is about 55-60 degrees. At 39 degrees F the potatoes will not sprout. 59 degrees F will prolong dormancy for 6 months. Mine have only been stored for 3 months. I think it’s a little too warm in there, and that I need another storage space.

For long term storage, sweet potatoes need a moderately warm and dry environment, 50-60 degrees and 60-70 percent humidity. Since the temperature under my kitchen counter hovers between 69 and 72, depending on whether or not I’m cooking, putting them there was probably optimistic. But then when I decided on that spot it was still in the eighties and reaching up into the nineties outside, and I couldn’t really find anyplace in the house that was cool. But now it’s getting down into the teens at night. So I moved them into the vestibule, the tiny room just inside my back door that is closed off from the kitchen. There is no heating vent in there, so it isn’t really heated. But a few windows, as well as being closed off from the cold, keep it between 50 and 60 in there pretty much all the time these days. I’ve been checking it at night when the temperatures are in the 20s outside and the temperature is still hovering near 50 in there. They’re in their cardboard box, wrapped in brown paper, and covered with a black towel. Since moving them a week ago, I haven’t seen any more evidence of sprouting. So I’ll leave them there until they’re gone. Hopefully this last box will take me through April.

The exciting news is that the sprouting prompted me to do some research on starting my own slips. I had not had any intentions of doing this, but it turns out that it’s incredibly easy to start your own sweet potato slips. “Saving seeds” is something that my husband and I went a few rounds about this year. I’m for it – in theory. But I was doing so much with the garden this year, and so much of it new, that saving seeds was just not something that I felt I could add to the effort. But after seeing the sweet potatoes sprouting, and reading up on it a little, it almost seemed idiotic NOT to try to start my own slips. According to one web site I read, one potato could yield up to 50 slips. I planted 27 slips this past year, and plan to plant about that again this year. So it seems to me that I ought to be able to pull together those 27 or so slips myself. So as one of my winter projects, I’ve decided to give it a shot.

I found a couple different ways to do this on the Internet. I decided to go with the cut potato in the glass jar of water method. It was really simple. I cut a potato in half. I chose a few narrower ones (one was the one that was already sprouting) that would fit in the mouth of a glass canning jar. Then I broke wooden barbeque skewers in half and used them to suspend the potato half-submerged in the water. I set it in the window, and let it do its work, and it seems to be doing well. When I first set this up, the really long, leafy sprout pictured below was white – I’m guessing from lack of light.

But it’s greened up now quite nicely and the leaves are starting to open. It’s exciting to think that I may be able to do this myself and not have to order slips this year! Plus after all of my failed indoor winter gardening experiments so far, it just feels good to see something growing again.

I’ll update the progress on this project at a later date.