You've been sweating all summer and taking care of your sweet potatoes . In the raised garden bed, or maybe you grow sweet potatoes indoors. You have carefully protected your plants from powdery mildew, stem rot and sweet potato weevil. You harvest sweet potatoes carefully and gently, so they don't have any cuts or bruises. Now, it's time to eat... almost. If you really want to, you can certainly eat them immediately after picking. However, if you have a lot, don't waste them, because your sweet potatoes are not properly pickled. Preserved sweet potatoes can ensure that they have the right texture, taste as sweet as you want, and last all winter. If you like sweet potatoes, you will want to be ready to take this step!
Pickling sweet potato is very important for making full use of tubers. Curing is a process that changes your product by extending its shelf life, preventing decay, and improving the flavor and sweetness of sweet potatoes. In this curing process, you can change your product by adjusting the temperature, humidity level and sometimes the light to create ideal conditions.
Storage and curing are different, and their conditions are often very different. Each vegetable has different needs for pickling, so we must do additional research, because here, we only discuss how to cure sweet potatoes. But we have an excellent article about harvesting and storing sweet potatoes. You should also read it!
About pickled sweet potato
The native sweet potato is still alive even after harvest and needs oxygen. After harvest, they are still going through a revolutionary process, in which starch is converted into sugar, affecting the overall taste of sweet potatoes. The successful curing period will produce the signature delicious sweet potato. The initial pickling process can also enable the sweet potato to heal any scratches or bruises that occur during harvest.
Before we talk about the pickling conditions of sweet potatoes, it must be noted that you should not wash sweet potatoes before pickling them, because this will shorten their life span and bring you less successful treatment. You can gently brush any remaining dirt after harvesting sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes need to be heated at first. When pickling sweet potatoes, the target is the high temperature between 80-85 degrees. The initial curing process takes 4-10 days. When your tuber feels hard and wet, it has completed curing and is ready to quickly transition to a colder temperature. If they still feel soft, it is better to enjoy the taste of sweet potato rather than spend more time trying to improve the treatment.
You can store the pickled sweet potato at 55-60 ℃, but it cannot be colder than this, because the pickled sweet potato is very sensitive to the cold temperature, which may cause chilling damage. However, this is a delicate balance, because temperatures above 60, combined with high humidity, will lead to germination.
Sweet potatoes need a humid environment when they are salted and stored. During curing, the humidity level of 90-95% must be maintained. Ensure ventilation to allow hot and humid air to move around. When moving to long-term storage, you still need to keep your goal at 85%.
Creating these environments for solidification sites can be tricky for some people, especially home growers. But this should not be something you skip, because it is difficult. The difference in taste between pickled and unsalted sweet potatoes is enough to encourage us to redouble our efforts and creativity. Here are some ideas for rolling the ball.
In greenhouses: greenhouses can be a good place for those who have sweet potatoes to cure them. You can easily monitor and control the temperature and humidity level of the greenhouse. In some areas, unless you have climate controlled greenhouses, it may be too cold to cure these greenhouses in the late harvest months, but if you do, this is a good choice.
In the bag: You can easily solidify the sweet potato in the plastic bag to generate moisture. After putting a handful of sweet potatoes in it, tie the bag tightly and cut several holes in the plastic grocery bag for ventilation. Then, you can put the plastic bag in a warm and sunny place in the house, or in an enclosed small room with a space heater. This is a good and affordable choice, but if you have a lot of sweet potatoes to deal with after harvest, it may be difficult and time-consuming.
Use a humidifier in a confined space: If you don't want to take the plastic bag route and have a humidifier, this is a great choice. Put your humidifier and space heater in a small wardrobe or even a shower with your sweet potatoes. It needs to be a closed space so that moist air can be trapped inside. Depending on the length and quantity of sweet potatoes you harvest, if you need to use a shower or closet during this period, this may not be a good choice.
Consider a growing tent: Planting tents is a great choice for producing pickled sweet potatoes. Add some growth pads on each shelf to generate heat and humidifier. If you have enough space for planting tents, this may be the most seamless way to pickle sweet potatoes.
Close to a bucket of water: I have personally used this method for several years before buying humidifiers for some of my indoor plants, and it works well. Placing a bucket of water in a warm and closed space near sweet potatoes will increase the moisture in the air and generate humidity. However, this is not a long-term solution for future storage of sweet potatoes. When you need to lower the temperature after the sweet potato is properly pickled, the bucket will no longer produce enough humidity, and your tuber will be easily damaged.
In the oven: You can even use the oven to pickle sweet potatoes. Some people use low temperature ovens, but all you need is an oven with warm light. The light from the oven generates enough heat to reach the required temperature in a narrow enclosed space. To maintain humidity, place a pan or oven safe container at the bottom of the oven with water in it. Once you are in range, put the sweet potato tray in the oven, and put a wooden spoon or something close to this size in the door to keep it open, so that the heat will not continue to rise.
Some of them suggest that it is more difficult to control the heat and moisture of curing after harvesting sweet potatoes. These changes in temperature and humidity mean that your curing timeline may not be universal. A slight cooling of the temperature will result in a longer curing time and vice versa. Check if the skin of sweet potatoes is firmer to see if they are ready.
Once you have finished the sweet potato curing process, put them into the root cellar or a dark place. If you do not have a root cellar, please store them in a dark, cool and damp place (and check our article on harvesting and storage processes for additional advice). If properly stored and kept in a cool enough place, you will store sweet potatoes for several months!
Q: Do sweet potatoes need to be salted before eating?
A: Technically, curing is unnecessary. You can pick these tubers from the vine and eat them on the same day; It just misses the signature sweetness. We strongly recommend that you pickle and store sweet potatoes so that starch has the opportunity to turn into sugar, giving them a good taste and extending their shelf life.
Q: How to pickle sweet potatoes in the oven?
A: There are more detailed explanations above. Make sure you have a low temperature oven, set it to "warm" cycle, or use an oven with warm light. You also need an oven safe pan to drain water and support the oven door to open the cracks to ensure that your roots do not accidentally cook.
Q: Can you leave sweet potatoes in the fields in winter?
A: It depends on where you live, but in most cases, not. Sweet potatoes cannot withstand cold temperatures. Although soil can provide some insulation, it is usually not enough. Frost will damage the roots. When the soil temperature drops below 50 degrees, cooling damage will occur, causing internal decay. Use a digging fork to gently harvest potatoes from a raised bed or other garden space, brush away most of the soil from the overhanging roots, and protect your harvest before the first frost strikes. When the weather warms again, you can put the roots back in the garden to start a new vine.