How Do I Harvest Sweet Potatoes

Ever dreamed of enjoying sweet potatoes you grew yourself? It’s easier than you think! But before you whip up a sweet potato casserole, let’s learn how to harvest and store these tasty tubers for the long haul.


How Long Does it Take to Grow Sweet Potatoes?

Good news! Sweet potatoes keep getting bigger and tastier throughout the season, even after the leaves turn yellow. You’ll want to harvest them in the fall, when the weather gets cooler and the vines start to wilt. Aim to pick them before the first frost hits, to avoid any damage to the sweet potatoes underground.

Harvesting Your Sweet Potato Bounty

Sweet potatoes are delicate, so handle them with care. Here’s how to dig them up gently:

  1. Prep the Vines: A few days before harvest, snip off the sweet potato vines. This helps the sweet potatoes develop tougher skins for storage.
  2. Loosen the Soil: Use a garden fork to gently loosen the soil around the base of the plant, about 18 inches out and 6 to 8 inches deep.
  3. Carefully Lift: Slowly lift the sweet potatoes out of the soil. Most will be close to the base of the plant, but some might be deeper or further away. Dig carefully to avoid missing any!
  4. Separate and Clean: Damaged sweet potatoes can be eaten right away. Just cut out the bruised part. For undamaged ones, gently brush off loose dirt. Don’t wash them with water! Let them sit for a day or two to dry completely. Then, use gloves to wipe off any remaining dirt. Be gentle to avoid scraping the skin.

Sweet Potato Cure for Extra Flavor

Now that your sweet potatoes are out of the ground, let’s cure them! Curing helps heal any nicks and turns some of the starches into sugars, making them even sweeter. Here’s what to do:

  1. Find a Warm Spot: Ideally, keep your sweet potatoes in a warm room (around 80°F to 85°F) with high humidity for about a week to ten days. If that’s tricky, a room at 70°F to 75°F for two to three weeks will also work. Cover them with paper or cloth to trap moisture.
  2. Outdoor Curing (Optional): If the weather permits, find a shady spot outside to cure your sweet potatoes. Attics, sheds, or basements can also work, but you might need to add a humidifier or space heater to control the temperature and humidity.

Storing Your Sweet Potato Harvest

Once cured, your sweet potatoes will last for months (but they might be too delicious to resist that long!). Here’s how to store them properly:

  1. Find a Cool, Dark Place: Aim for a spot between 50°F and 60°F, like a basement or cool closet. Avoid storing them in the refrigerator.
  2. Regular Check-Ups: Give your sweet potatoes a peek every now and then. Remove any that show signs of spoiling.

With a little care during harvest and storage, you can enjoy your homegrown sweet potatoes well into next spring! Happy planting (and eating)!

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