Sweet Potato

Sweet Potato


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Common Name:  Sweet Potato, Kumera.

Latin Name:  Ipomoea batatas.

Origin:  Central America or South America.

Description (what it looks like):  A trailing, vigorous growing, vine with attractive lobed leaves and pink morning-glory type flowers.  Lots of leaves in summer which turn yellow in colder months, indicating harvest time.

Uses (function):  Use as orchard ground cover, however, bandicoots, brush turkeys and wallabies, may eat them, so consider your location.  All parts can be used as stock feed, including chicken fodder.  The tubers are usually cooked before feeding to pigs, or the family pets.  Protects soil from sun and rain damage.  Edible leaves, flowers, stems and tubers.

Nutritional value:  Niacin, magnesium, folate, calcium, potassium, fibre, Vitamin A, C and B6.  Just 150g of baked sweet potato contains 100% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A and C.

Growing details (propagation, seed etc):  The tubers can be planted directly in the soil but it is better to produce sprouts or 'slips' that are then planted.  To start your own slips, place the tubers on a raised bed or in a box in a warm, sheltered spot (a ventilated pantry works well).  Cover the tubers with 5-7cm of damp sand and when the shoots are 15cm long, they are cut from the parent plant and planted out immediately, 20cm apart.  Plants raised from tip cuttings generally store better and are relatively free of disease.  Plait stems for strength to pull out tubers instead of using shovel, for careful harvesting.  Plant in a different area of the garden each year to reduce risk of disease.  Tubers can be stored for many months in a cool, dry place.

Best time to grow:  During the wet season or spring.  The area should be frost-free for at least five months with warm days and nights.  Wait for the beginning of the warm weather to plant. Tubers should have begun to sprout before planting. Planting too early into a cold, wet soil will cause them to rot.

Soil:  They do well in both sandy and loamy soils with a pH of 5.2-6.7.

Sun:  Partial shade.

Water:  Keep moist.

How to eat it:  The young leaves and tips can be steamed as a spinach substitute. Tubers are delicious baked, made into soup, used as chips and added to curries.  Can be boiled, baked, fried or made into flour, starch or cereal. In Japan, they are made into noodles, cakes and breads.  Often made into sweet foods like pies, puddings, biscuits, cakes and desserts in many Asian countries.  Also used to make alcoholic drinks.  Popular for using in stir-fries with Asian herbs and spices.  Substitute for potato in any recipe.

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