Today I want to share a review of the 2017 sweet potato crop, now that we have had a chance to taste all the varieties I grew. This has been the best year ever for growing sweet potatoes here at Happy Acres. I believe a combination of favorable weather and growing practices helped quite a bit. And I have been working to select varieties that are productive for us as well as useful in the kitchen. This year I harvested 170 pounds of sweet potatoes from 51 plants, for an average of 3.33 pounds per plant.
I’ve learned the hard way that, unlike many other vegetables, sweet potatoes do not really appreciate a rich soil or a lot of added compost and fertilizer. Last year I supplied too much nitrogen to the beds, and the yields suffered as a result. Combined with the fact that I was trying several new varieties that didn’t do much, the average yield in 2016 was only 1.16 pounds per plant, and many of those roots were too small to be of much use. This year I added no nitrogen to the planting beds and the yields were back to a normal level. From now on I will go back to my tried and true methods, and add no fertilizer at all to the sweet potato bed before planting. Our soil is reasonably fertile to begin with, and it has ample organic material. For more information on growing sweet potatoes you can read my post on Planting Sweet Potatoes, or see the links at the bottom.
The best performing sweet potato in our garden this year was the orange-fleshed Beauregard. It’s a widely adapted variety that is popular with home gardeners and commercial growers alike, and I’ve been growing it for about 10 years now. Beauregard has high yields of large roots, and it is a good keeper. It’s also a good choice for those with cooler and shorter growing seasons than what we have here. The 5 plants yielded over 26 pounds of roots, for an average yield of 5.28 pounds per plant.
Beauregard has a reddish purple skin and moist, sweet, orange flesh. In the kitchen I use it for all the things we do with sweet potatoes, including baking whole and for Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes. If I have one complaint about Beauregard, it’s that in our garden it makes a lot of huge roots. This year I got quite a few that weighed nearly two pounds each, and in years past I have gotten a few three-pounders. It’s not a bad problem to have though, and I want to experiment with a different spacing next year. This year I set out the slips about 15 to 16 inches apart, and I think Beauregard would benefit from a closer spacing which might result in a bit smaller roots. Someone also suggested digging them a bit earlier, which may be worth trying. This year they were in the ground for right at 120 days, from early June to early October.
Another dependable performer for me here is the Purple variety. I’ve been growing it for several years now, after Norma (Garden To Wok) shared some planting stock with me. The 10 plants produced a bit over 35 pounds of roots, for an average yield of 3.52 pounds per plant. Purple has a dark purple skin with deep purple flesh. It has proven to be one of our most-used sweet potatoes in the kitchen, and its fairly dry flesh is great for sweet potato hash, baked fries and for baked sweet potato chips. The roots tend to form mostly right under the vines, which is a plus when it comes to digging.
As an added bonus, the purple skins and flesh are a good source of anthocyanins. As you can see in the below photo, the color is all purple both inside and out.
I’ve been growing Bonita for three years now, and it is has quickly become one of my favorites. It has a tan skin with a pinkish cast and white flesh that cooks up moist and sweet.
It’s one of my favorite choices for baking whole, though it’s also great for hash and fries. The ten plants yielded 25 pounds, for an average yield of 2.54 pounds per plant. I plan on growing it again in 2018 for sure, even though it was less productive than some of the other varieties.
It’s my first time growing Korean Purple, and it made quite a showing. This variety has purple skin and a fairly dry white flesh. The 5 plants made almost 22 pounds of roots, for an average yield of 4.38 pounds per plant. It was the most productive of all the white-fleshed varieties I grew this year. So far we have tried Korean Purple in several dishes. It went well in a batch of kale and sweet potato hash, and it paired up beautifully with Purple for baked sweet potato chips. In the below photo you can see the skin is bright purple just after being dug, but it darkens in storage. The white spots are where the skin rubbed off while I was digging them out. The skinned spots don’t hurt anything, and after curing they toughen up and do just fine in storage.
It was also my first time growing Grand Asia. The slips came from Duck Creek Farms as a substitute for Red Japanese which was sold out. It has a fairly dry and sweet white flesh which I think compares very favorably to the Red Japanese potatoes I have bought locally. The 6 plants made 14 pounds of sweet potatoes, for an average yield of 2.34 pounds per plant. That’s not bad at all, but it turned out to be the least productive of the ones I grew this year. The jury is still out on whether I will grow it next year.
It was my second time growing an Indiana heirloom variety called Indiana Gold. Last year they averaged 2.2 pounds per plant, which certainly beat many of the other varieties in yield during an off year. Indiana Gold is an early producer with golden skin and moist orange flesh. This year it averaged 2.6 pounds per plant, and while it is tasty in the kitchen I can’t say it is really an improvement over Beauregard. I don’t plan on growing it next year.
It’s also my second time growing Redmar, which is also known as Maryland Red. It has red skin and a moist orange flesh, and averaged 3.26 pounds per plant. I think the taste compares favorably with Beauregard, and the smaller sized roots suit our needs in the kitchen. I plan on growing it again in 2018.
The last variety of sweet potato I grew this year is called Violetta, and it is very similar to Korean Purple. It is so similar in fact, I’m not sure I could tell the two apart if I didn’t have them labeled! My 4 plants averaged 4.21 pounds per plant, which is in line with the yield I got from Korean Purple. Since they are so similar, I don’t think I will grow Violetta again unless I detect a difference in taste. I’ll cook the two up side by side some day and we’ll do a comparison.
In the below photo you can see the similarity between the two varieties, with Violetta on the left and Korean Purple on the right. You can also see how the skin has darkened in color on both of them.
Next year I want to grow the orange fleshed Garnet and perhaps Carolina Ruby, plus I plan on growing the Japanese Murasaki which is similar to Red Japanese. I will be doing more research before planting time next year, and I would love to hear about what others are growing. I hope you have enjoyed this review of our 2017 sweet potatoes, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!
For more information about growing sweet potatoes try these sources: