The 2023 crop of sweet potatoes are all in now, and it looks like it was a good year for them here. I harvested a total of 76 pounds of them, compared to 64 pounds last year and 90 pounds in 2021 – all from the same varieties and the same number of plants(29). The yields last year suffered from a lack of rainfall, but this year it appears I did a better job of supplying supplemental water to the sweet potato bed throughout the growing season. I put a soaker hose down the length of the bed shortly after planting, and used it as-needed to give additional water.
Sweet potatoes are one of our staple crops for storage, and are generally an easy to grow crop for us here. I plant them, keep them well watered, and dig them about four months after setting out the slips. Since I am still recovering from the after effects of my bout with pneumonia this summer, I broke the harvesting up into several sessions and also enlisted the help of my wife. She thoroughly enjoyed digging for buried treasure, and I promised I would ‘let’ her help me in the future! After harvesting them, I let the sweet potatoes cure in a warm place for several weeks before we begin eating them. The basement is the best place we have for curing, and I spread them out in a thin layer in cardboard boxes. As they cure, the skin toughens up and the starches convert to sugars. After curing, they will keep until next spring.
The three best performing varieties for me this year were Purple, Beauregard and Murasaki. Purple produced 3.2 pounds per plant, while the other two varieties produced 2.6 pounds per plant. I can usually rely on Purple to do well for me here. I’ve been growing it for several years now, after Norma (Garden To Wok) shared some planting stock with me. Purple has purple skin and a deep purple, dry flesh. It is one of my favorites for making sweet potato hash, and it also does well with other varieties in Sweet Potatoes Pommes Anna.
Murasaki has become one of my favorite sweet potatoes for baking whole. Trader Joe’s used to sell it seasonally in fall, though I don’t know if they still do. It has a nutty, sweet flavor with a moist firm flesh, though it is a bit drier than most sweet potatoes. It usually makes small to medium sized roots for me, which are a great size for eating whole as a side dish.
Beauregard is typically a dependable performer for us. It has moist, orange flesh and is much like most of the sweet potatoes you would find in the grocery stores here in the U.S. We like to bake them whole, or use them for a side dish like Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes. Last year Beauregard underperformed for us, so I am happy for the 13 pounds we got from 5 hills I planted this year.
The two underperforming varieties this year were Bonita and Korean Purple. I planted five hills of Bonita and they yielded right at 11 pounds, for an average of 2.2 pounds per plant. I planted six slips of Korean Purple and they yielded almost 13 pounds, for an average of 2.1 pounds per plant. These two varieties are quite variable in yield from year to year, and in 2022 Bonita and Korean Purple each yielded 2.8 pounds per plant, and along with Purple were the top performers. Bonita has a pinkish tan skin and moist white flesh, and is one of our favorites for baking whole.
Korean Purple has purple skin with a dry white flesh. It is truly one of my favorites for making hash, oven-baked fries and sweet potato chips. The sweet flesh crisps up well and caramelizes in the oven for a real taste treat. It makes a nice visual contrast with the all-purple Purple variety. The sizes usually range from small to quite large, and all are useful for us in the kitchen.
I’m not sure why the yields are so variable for our sweet potatoes, since I plant them the same way every year. I like to make a ridge of soil that is 8 to 10 inches high and about as wide before setting out the slips 15 to 16 inches apart. I don’t fertilize the soil before planting, since too much nitrogen makes for vigorous growth of the vines but thin, spindly roots. I also rotate all the crops to different beds every year, so perhaps the different locations and the differences in weather account for the variability. Regardless, we will have plenty to eat this year for sure!
For more information about growing sweet potatoes try these sources: