Help with sweet potato harvest

Sweet potato    Central New Hampshire

It's my first year growing sweet potatoes. What gorgeous vines! They've been the best-looking plants in my garden this summer (after a slow start; I didn't think any of those scrawny slips would grow), untouched by insect pests, disease, or the drowning that knocked out much of my early crops.

Because it's getting cold, and I understand the tubers could be harmed by soil temperatures below 45°, I've started harvesting them.

Yikes! The tubers are so brittle. The biggest ones grow bunched tightly together directly under where the vines attach to the roots. They snap or break off a couple of inches from the end, even when I work them gently and individually out of the soil by hand. I don't dare use a digging fork or even a trowel. How can I harvest he tubers so they remain intact?

Also, can I cure and eat those long, skinny ones that look something like skinny (or fat) carrots? I have a lot of those. I assume they'd grow into nice big sweet potatoes if we had another six weeks of hot weather. I'll try to get some photos tomorrow.

Posted by: Peg Boyles (3 points) Peg Boyles
Posted: September 6, 2013


Hi Peg,

I've grown sweet potatoes many times with great success - congratulations on discovering one of the best crops ever.

You're right about the tubers being brittle. We pulled 21lbs from one of our beds last week and my one-year-old broke a tuber while playing with it... it happens. Just do your best. I'm assuming you don't have very light soil, since the tubers usually pull pretty easily here in Florida's loose sand.

Definitely harvest what you can by hand. Once I've pulled all the tubers I can find that way, I break out the spading fork. Any badly damaged tubers get eaten first.

The little ones are fine to eat. In fact, you can eat the leaves of sweet potatoes as well.

One thing to remember: sweet potatoes taste sweeter when they've sat for a week or two. Let them sit out in a dry place for a few days and it also lets some of the harvesting damage heal up. I successfully kept them in storage for almost six months in Tennessee, though I'm not sure I could do that here.

Good luck. Here's a little more on sweet potatoes from my gardening website - you can see the great big pile we pulled in last season:


Posted by: David Goodman (67 points) David Goodman
Posted: September 6, 2013

Peg Boyles commented,
Thanks, David. I will keep digging carefully by hand. And no, my soil isn't heavy--loamy and very rocky--but the tubers themselves are just so weird. I'm used to white potatoes, which come out easily and whole, not attached to those thick, long strings.

New England growers only recently got a few varieties that will mature here; I grew Beauregard, reportedly not as good as the longer-season types, but other gardeners say they have pretty good flavor. (We can't grow big watermelons here, either, but those Sugar Babies sure taste great in late summer.)

I'm used to letting winter storage crops cure properly--grow lots of winter squash, white (also blue, yellow, and red) potatoes, garlic, and onions to last the year; all of them have specific curing or drying requirements. If we don't do it right, we'll have a lot of spoilage.

Thanks also for the link to your blog. Looks interesting. I'll dig deeper and stay in touch with it.

about 7 years ago.

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