Botanical Names: Ipomoea batatas
What is a sweet potato slip? It is an eye that has sprouted on a sweet potato. That sprout is then grown 8 to 10 inches, and then cut just below the leaf joint. The leaf joint is then placed in moist potting mix or a shallow amount of water to begin to promote roots. Most vegetables start as seeds, but sweet potatoes start with slips. Alternatively, slips are referred to as cuttings, starts or seeds. The actual sweet potato seeds (produced from flowers) are only used for breeding purposes to create new and improved cultivars.
Sweet potatoes are valued for their wonderful culinary applications, but before starting to grow sweet potatoes it is important to know if you have the right conditions. This vegetable needs warm temperatures (75 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day along with warm nights. Sweet potatoes grow in areas such as North Carolina, California, Mississippi and Louisiana. A good amount of space is needed for these vigorous plants. However, some varieties grow well in containers and take up less room.
If you have the right location for planting and growing sweet potatoes, then selecting a cultivar that fits your taste is the next best step. In the last couple of years, vegetables have had a makeover of sorts, resulting in an array of colors. Now it is possible to have purple sweet potatoes with your red carrots at dinnertime. Here are some of the latest cultivars that are remarkably different from their ancestors.
For unique colors:
Stokes Purple Sweet Potato – gorgeous rich purple skin and flesh that maintains its color even when cooked. Great in recipes that call for orange sweet potatoes from pies, fries or chips. The color is pure pleasure for children and adults when seen on plates.
‘New Jewell’ – an improved ‘Centennial’ and winner of blue ribbons for color, taste and yield. The outside skin is a rosy red with a deep orange interior. It is a quick baker, resulting in a soft, pleasant texture when consumed.
Another cultivar to consider is ‘Red Jewel’, an old-fashioned favorite and an eye catcher in the garden with a deep red outside and orange inside.
‘Oriental’ – Also referred to as the Japanese Sweet Potato, it has a beautiful pink to purple skin and is white on the interior. Its flavor is delicious and sweet. Some think it resembles the taste of a chestnut. Presentation is attractive whether it is grilled, steamed or baked. A wonderful varietyto start with.
For those with limited space:
‘Bunch Porto Ricos’ – Also referred to as ‘Bush’ or ‘Vineless’ this is a favorite for gardeners with limited space. Its skin is copper colored with a light, reddish flesh. It is an excellent baking potato with a delicious, old-fashioned taste. Baby potatoes will mature in 100 days with fullbakers yielding at 110.
For the northern gardeners:
‘Georgia Jet’ – Ideal for colder climate gardens as it has the fastest growth and extra-high yields of any sweet potato. This cultivar’s testing in northern states such as New York and New England.