Potato plant is a nutritious choice for keeping your wine cellar full in winter! Gardeners who grow big harvests need to keep a few things in mind when harvesting potatoes to prolong the life of their delicious bounty. The following content also has some reference value for raised garden beds.
While the growing season is filled with high humidity weather, in order for them to last through the winter, they prefer a cool and moisture-free environment for storage. Storage can only take place after a process called curing, in which the starch in the sweet potato turns into sugar and the tuber forms a second skin that makes it more resistant to damage.
Long-term storage has been perfected over the centuries and has evolved with human technology. For those living in energy efficient homes or off-grid environments, sweet potatoes can still be stored outside in the old "banking method". Can also be stored in crates and boxes for gardeners looking for a more accessible method. Home cooks can also boil and then freeze potatoes so they have family fries or baby food on hand.
To further increase your chances of a successful harvest, look for varieties that are known to have a longer shelf life or that are best suited to your garden conditions and growing area. Getting healthy tubers is one of the best indicators of your storage success!
When to Harvest Sweet Potatoes
The sweet potatoes are ready to be harvested when their tubers start to stick out of the ground and their vines start to turn yellow. If you know what variety to plant, you can better guess the harvest date by looking at its expected growth time.
Conditions for harvesting sweet potatoes and pickling are very important. To properly start curing, wait for a warm day (above 55 degrees F) with no chance of rain, as exposure to water will slow the drying of this root plant. Be sure to harvest before the first frost date, as frost can seriously damage sweet potatoes. Harvest all plants at once and compost if the vines are free of disease. Be sure to start in the morning, preferably a few days without rain,
How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes
For backyard and homestead growers, there are two main ways to harvest sweet potatoes. The first is to simply dig the roots out of the ground with your hands and small hand tools. It's actually quite satisfying to get your hands in the dirt and feel these wonderful tubers in the soil. Another way is to use a tool called a garden fork. Insert a fork well outside the growing area of the roots and lift the soil. Continue digging until you gradually get closer to the roots of the plant.
Don't wash the roots right after taking them out of the ground, no matter how tempting it is. It's okay to leave some soil on the potatoes during the pickling process, just brush off any large mounds of dirt you find at the roots.
After harvest, sweet potatoes need to be pickled immediately. During this process, the starch turns into sugar, which makes the potatoes sweeter, and the roots also lose their moisture content. Post-harvest flavors develop over time, which means you do need some patience. This is why sweet potatoes are great for storage.
For proper curing, keep the potatoes in the shade outside the garden for the remainder of the harvest. It would be better if there was a breeze. That night, move the tubers to a place with high humidity and leave for 7-14 days while curing. Ideally, try to keep the heat as high as possible, around 80 degrees if possible. If in a cool climate, cure for another week.
Store sweet potatoes
There are several ways to heal these delicious roots. Depending on your conditions, choose the method that works best for you. Each of these options uses a different method to keep moisture out of the tubers, keep them cool (60f is best) and keep the roots dry throughout storage. If done correctly, your crop can last for months or even a year.
The banking method of storing potatoes is probably the most complicated, but it's perfect for storing harvests on small farms. The bank approach was done outdoors and created a cottage-like structure to protect the potatoes from the elements without taking up valuable cellar space.
To create, find a sloping piece of land and dig a shallow hole about six feet wide and one foot deep. Cover the bottom of the hole with straw or dried leaves and start layering the potatoes, keeping the potatoes pointed up and down. Place potatoes around the center upright pole to help provide ventilation. Once you've made one layer, lay down a few more inches of straw and continue to make another layer until you run out of sweet potatoes. Once done, cover it with straw again and create a cone-like structure with planks around it to protect it from the elements. Finally, cover the planks with dirt. The resulting conical structure should provide good storage for several months, or even up to a year.
Sand method is a way to protect against sunlight and other elements that can damage sweet potato roots. However, since this method does not allow for good ventilation, it is not as highly recommended as the other methods.
Put the sweet potatoes in a bucket or bucket (make sure it's opaque and doesn't let light in) and sand the sweet potatoes. Make sure the potatoes don't touch each other. Store in a warm cellar.
Crate or box
To store in a crate or box (perhaps the easiest method to obtain), find a crate and box that provides good ventilation and layer the sweet potatoes inside. Try to place only one layer of sweet potatoes per box and stack them to allow as much ventilation as possible
Store cured tubers in a cool dark closet or well-ventilated room, or in a large pantry or storage room. If you're concerned about exposing them to the sun, try wrapping individual sweet potatoes in newspaper to keep them out of the light, but allow for air movement. Ideally, the storage temperature will be close to 55 – 60f.
A modern and labor-intensive way to store sweet potatoes is to freeze them. This is ideal for backyard gardeners with small crops or a large freezer.
Tubers cannot be frozen immediately. After the marinating process is complete, peel, cut and cook the sweet potatoes until fork soft. Freeze cut or mashed sweet potatoes immediately after boiling. This is perfect for sweet potato fries or individually portioned baby food.