How and When to Harvest Sweet Potatoes

DISCOVER TO HOW ADN WHEN TO HARVEST SWEET POTATOES

Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are a part of the staple diet of many people around the world. Apart from being a rich source of potassium, fiber, vitamins, and other essential nutrients, sweet potatoes also contain an antioxidant called beta carotene, which plays an important role in raising blood levels of vitamin A.

A sweet potato grows as an underground tuber. It is a warm-season perennial plant. Sweet potatoes are available in a variety of colours ranging from orange to white, red to pink, violet to yellow, and even purple. These are extremely nutrient and vitamin dense.

As the name suggests, they give a sweet taste to the taste buds. It is a tender, semi-erect annual plant. The flesh of the tubers is yellowish. The flowers of the plant are strangely pinkish or purplish.

Since they are a warm-season crop, sweet potatoes can tolerate heat and even mild droughts. Growers do not need to care much about the sweet potato crop; just a few pests attack them. We only need sun and warm soil for this crop. 

Sweet potatoes are not only nutritious but also quite delicious. We can consume them after boiling, baking, steaming, and frying.

There is a big market for sweet potatoes due to their rich nutritional value and low-calorie count. Every phase, from growing to guarding, is critical to acquiring the best present from the earth. Many growers overlook a critical phase in producing the best sweet potatoes: Harvesting.

So, let us dig deeper into the zone of harvesting Sweet Potatoes!

WHEN TO HARVEST SWEET POTATOES

Sweet Potatoes are a popular tropical plant. Having their origin in Tropical America and the Caribbean, now the people all around the planet grow sweet potatoes.

Earlier only people in the southern hemisphere grew sweet potatoes. For the places having several months of warm weather in the northern hemisphere, various varieties that take lesser time to grow and mature are now available.

When to Harvest Sweet Potatoes
When to Harvest Sweet Potatoes

Most of the variants of sweet potatoes take around 90 to 120 days to mature if they grow in required conditions. The newer types of sweet potato variants for the northern hemisphere take a lesser time.

SIGNS OF HARVEST

There are a few signs in every crop that alarms us that the harvest time is near!

The best to make out When to Harvest Sweet Potatoes is to keep a check on the leaves. Once the crop is mature, the leaves of the plant start to become yellow and wither.

Apart from this, a few people believe that the size of the tubers also indicates their readiness to harvest. Size should be big enough for a meal. 

Sweet potatoes do not start with a seed. They grow from small roots of the sweet potato called slips. Many people purchase slips. One way to know about the estimated harvest time is to see the date of harvest provided on the packets of the slips.

BEST WEATHER TO HARVEST SWEET POTATOES

Usually, the crop is ready in late September or early October. Be sure to pick up the crop before the first frost. 

Sweet potatoes are extremely vulnerable to cold weather. The sweet potatoes may be underground, but the vines above the ground can affect the whole plant. The vines may die and blacken due to frostbite.

The tubers grow till the frost season. Once, the vines are dead, some tubers may decay inside the ground or during the storage. Wet soil can be the home to several harmful microorganisms. Thus, affecting the quality of the harvest. 

When the soil temperature falls beneath 50 ° F, the crops can suffer from cold freezing, which can limit yield. So, it is best to get the crop out of the ground before frosting occurs.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU CAN’T HARVEST SWEET POTATOES BEFORE FROST

If it is not possible to harvest the sweet potatoes before the hard frost season begins; It is still possible to save the tubers to an extent.

It is better to cut the dead vines at the surface so that the tubers did not decay. It will give us just a few more days to harvest the sweet potatoes. 

FINDING A DAY FOR HARVEST

Choosing the right day to harvest is a cumbersome task. Let us discuss some aspects to get a better idea about the best possible time to harvest.

  • A cloudy day is always better to choose for harvesting sweet potatoes. The skins of fresh tubules are thin. They are prone to become sunscald due to excessive sunlight. It might lead to rotting or any other infections at the time of storage.
  • If it is necessary for you to dig out the tubules on a sunny day, do not keep the harvest out in the sun for long. To minimize the extent of damage to the yield, move the sweet potatoes in a shaded region quickly. You can also cover the freshly dug out sweet potatoes with a tarp.
  • Do not pick your crop on a wet day. The crop can take much longer to cure and be more susceptible to harm during storage.
  • Have a look at the temperatures during the night too. Take out the tubules of the ground once the temperatures start hitting between 40 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The longer you keep the tubules in the ground, the bigger their size would be. The size of the tubules does not determine the taste of the harvest. So, do not lure yourself with the idea of bigger and sweeter potatoes. At least harvest the crop before the first hard frost.

 

EXTRA TIPS FOR DECIDING TIME TO HARVEST

Subsequent tips will help you in having sweet potatoes from the field;

  • The roots of the sweet potato can freeze at 30 F. (-1 C.). The tubers might injure at 45 F. (7 C.).
  • Keep a check on the weather forecasts to know about a rainy or a very bright sunny day in advance, and delay the harvest. The weather predictions might tell you about the day of the first frost too. Remember to dig the sweet potatoes before that. 

 

HOW TO HARVEST SWEET POTATOES

Once you have decided when to harvest, it is essential to know how to harvest sweet potatoes properly. 

Although they look like that of an elongated potato; they are just distant relatives. Sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family; on the other hand, the general potatoes belong to the nightshade family. The harvest process is just a bit similar.

Let us see the steps for harvesting the Sweet Potatoes perfectly!

1) Loosening the soil

Start by removing the soil from all around the plant. Construct a hole about the plant’s roots. It must be around 15 to 18 inches (38- 45 cm). Try to lift the tubers of the plant by moving inwards. Tubers will be at least 6 inches (15 cm) deep in the soil.

To accomplish the cultivating process, we could use a shovel, or spade fork as a means.

Try to be tender. Do not damage the roots. Usually, the surface of the tubers is thin. So, be careful during the digging process.

2) Pulling the roots

Using your fingertips, pull up the crown of the sweet potato tubers. Remember to be as cautious as practicable during the operation to do as little damage as possible.

3) Dirt Separation
Take off any extra dirt or soil once you have picked the sweet potatoes. At this point, avoid washing the produce. Washing might turn the sweet potatoes more prone to the attack of microorganisms.

EXTRA TIPS FOR HARVESTING SWEET POTATOES

Bear cotton gloves when digging sweet potatoes to assure that the output is not impacted.
You may curtail the vines 2 or 3 days before the harvest day. It will toughen up the skins.

HARVESTING PROCESS FOR CONTAINER-GROWN SWEET POTATOES

If you grew the Sweet Potatoes in a container, then the harvesting procedure is quite simple. Just put the contents of the container into cardboard on the ground or a garbage bag or any other similar place. 

Sift through the soil. Using your hands, take out all the sweet potatoes from the pile.

CURING SWEET POTATOES

Once the harvest process is over, we regard Curing as a crucial step too. 

Curing is a method involving the drying out of the inner areas of the tubules of the sweet potatoes. It is an important process to ensure the longevity of the harvest.

 

-PERFECT PLACE FOR CURING 

It is best to cure the sweet potatoes in a warm and humid environment. Places like a garage or basement work the best for the purpose.

Keep the sweet potatoes at an area having a temperature around 85 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 90 per cent.

In case the desired temperature is not there, then we can cure the sweet potatoes at lower temperatures for longer durations. We can cure them between 65 – 75° F for 2-3 weeks.

Similarly, if desired humidity levels are not prevalent; then we can achieve it through stacking boxes or covering them with paper or heavy clothes. Another good option is to keep them in perforated plastics. It will help to keep the humidity levels high along with letting excess moisture escape.

Always remember to keep them out of direct sunlight for avoiding damage to the harvest. 

-IMPORTANCE OF CURING

Curing is an essential step for many crops. But in the case of sweet potatoes, it is of even more importance.

The taste of the sweet potatoes develops during the curing period. The sugar levels of the harvest rise to great extents during the time being. The flavour will enhance since the starch changes to sugar.

We do the curing process to ensure a longer shelf life for the yield. Besides this, the curing process heals the bruises and cuts of the tubers. The flesh colour also becomes prominent during the stage.

-EXTRA TIPS FOR CURING

  • The sweet potatoes must cure for 10 to 15 days. Hold them for an additional week if the temperatures are lower than expected.
  • Hold any sweet potatoes that are hurt, diseased, or bruised at a distance from others.
  • We should line up the container or the area where we keep the sweet potatoes for the curing process with some soft material so that the roots do not get any scratches.
  • Remember not to wash the sweet potatoes as mentioned earlier. It is better to let the roots dry and cure before removing the excess earth or mud harshly.

 

STORING SWEET POTATOES 

After curing is over, the next step is to store the sweet potatoes properly to get the crop in other parts of the year as well.

The best way to store the sweet potatoes is to keep them unwashed to eliminate the chances of decay.

Store the sweet potatoes after wrapping them in a newspaper. Do not let the tubers touch each other; they might rot.

-PERFECT PLACE FOR STORING SWEET POTATOES

Sweet potatoes should be preserved in a spot out of lights with a temperature range of 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. For longer shelf life, the region should be well ventilated. A root cellar, a cool wardrobe, or a cool pantry are all good places to store them.

Do not Refrigerate the sweet potatoes at any cost. Low temperature changes sugars back into starch. It means that the sweet potatoes may lose their sweetness if stored in such chilly conditions.

Do not store the sweet potatoes in outdoor pits. They might be damp that can lead to decay.

EXTRA TIPS FOR HAVING THE PERFECT SWEET POTATOES

Also, Read- When to Harvest Cannabis 

  • Reserve a few sweet potatoes for getting slips for the next growing season. It can help in saving money spent on buying the slips of the crop.
  • The sweet potatoes usually store around 4 to 6 months once cured properly.
  • To store sweet potatoes for 6 to 10 months, they can be frozen, canned, or dried.

 

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