Sweet potatoes are a big thing here at Happy Acres, and I want to share my review of the ones I grew in 2018. I’ve been growing sweet potatoes in my garden for as long as I can remember, and they are a dependable and productive crop for me. Last year was the best year I’ve had since we moved here, and I harvested 170 pounds from 51 plants for an average of 3.33 pounds per plant. This year the yields weren’t quite as big, but they were still big enough we should be well supplied for ourselves and have plenty for sharing with friends. The 51 plants I planted in 2018 produced 118 pounds of sweet potatoes for an average of 2.31 pounds per plant. That is a lot of sweet potatoes any way you look at it!
The most productive variety this year is also one of my favorites. Bonita averaged 3.8 pounds/plant, with the 6 plants giving us 23 pounds of roots. Bonita has a pinkish tan skin and moist white flesh, and is one of my favorites for baking whole. This is my 4th year growing Bonita, and it has consistently performed well for me. I have had problems the last few years on some varieties with scurf, which is a fungal disease that discolors the skin of the roots. It’s harmless to humans, and doesn’t effect the taste or the flesh of the potatoes any. The disease persists in the soil for 2-3 years, so crop rotation is the best way to keep the disease from coming back. You can see the discoloration on the skin in the below photo. It’s a little harder to spot on the varieties with a dark skin.
The second most productive variety this year is one I trialed called Murasaki. It looks a lot like another one I grew called Red Japanese. Both have a reddish purple skin and a sweet white flesh. Murasaki was considerably more productive though, averaging 3.3 pounds/plant while Red Japanese averaged 2 pounds/plant. In the below photo it’s Murasaki on the left and Red Japanese on the right.
I baked one each of these two and we tasted them side by side, and my wife and I couldn’t really tell the difference. Both have a sweet, nutty flavor with a slightly dry texture. I plan on growing Murasaki next year since it did so well this time.
The third most productive one is another trial variety called Ginseng, averaging 3.0 pounds/plant. I got my slips for it from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. The Sand Hill Preservation Center lists varieties called Ginseng Red and Ginseng Orange, but this one from SESE was listed as just ‘Ginseng’. I have no idea if it’s the same as one of those other two, since I’ve never grown them.
Ginseng has a dry, light yellow/orange flesh and a rich sweet flavor. When I decided to grow it this year I thought it might be a rival for Beauregard, but actually it is in a league of its own. It might well be the sweetest of all I grew this year. I do believe more tasting will be required, until the whole 8 pounds of them is gone! I only set out 3 plants this year, but I plan to plant even more of it next year. I guess I better remember to leave one root to make slips.
Coming in at fourth in productivity and ranking high on taste is my long time favorite Beauregard. It averaged 2.7 pounds/plant, down considerably from last year when it made a whopping 5.3 pounds/plant. Beauregard has a moist, sweet orange flesh and can make large roots even in areas with short growing seasons. It is the sort of sweet potato you might find in a grocery, and the type many people in the U.S. think of when they think about a sweet potato. We use it for baking whole, and for dishes like my Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes. I don’t think it’s the best choice though for hash or sweet potato fries since the moist flesh doesn’t crisp up as much as varieties with a drier flesh.
My favorite of the ones with drier flesh are the purple-skinned white-fleshed Korean Purple, and the purple-skinned purple-flesh Purple variety. They came in at #5 and #6 in productivity this year, with Korean Purple averaging 2.7 pounds/plant and Purple averaging 2.4 pounds/plant. I don’t think the flesh of these two is quite as sweet as some of the others I grow, but that means they work well in savory dishes as well as for fries and hash. I like to put sweet potatoes in a curry, and Purple works very well for that since it holds up nicely without becoming too mushy.
Purple is especially stunning with its deep purple flesh, and I use it when I make Rio Zape and Sweet Potato Salad. Both Purple and Korean Purple are also great for making baked sweet potato chips, which you can see in the below photo.
Other trial varieties I grew this year include the orange-fleshed Carolina Ruby and Garnet and the white-fleshed O’Henry. All three did poorly here, and I don’t plan to grow them next year. It’s my second time trying Garnet, and it has done miserably both times. Carolina Ruby made just less than 1 pound/plant. O’Henry made 1/7 pounds/plant and had a moist sweet flesh, but it’s not an improvement over the other white-fleshed varieties I grow.
I baked one of the Carolina Ruby potatoes along with a Beauregard so we could do a comparison taste test. Carolina Ruby was quite tasty, but the lack of productivity means I won’t be growing it next year.
I hope you have enjoyed this review of the 2018 sweet potato crop. My plans for 2019 are to plant about 30 or so slips of Beauregard, Bonita, Ginseng, Korean Purple, Murasaki and Purple. I plan to grow all these slips myself, and currently I don’t plan on trying any new ones. Of course plans can change, especially since I love to experiment! One variety I may want to try is one I’ve grown in the past called Centennial. And I also want to eat a few of the tender young sweet potato leaves like I did this year.
Sand Hill Preservation Center has an impressive list of sweet potatoes and is a good source for slips. I have also ordered from Duck Creek Farms and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in the past.
For more information about growing sweet potatoes try these sources: