Confession. Sweet potatoes have never been my favorite, and until recently, I never cooked with them. So why grow them this year? Three reasons. For one, Mom introduced me to a sublime recipe of roasted sweet potatoes sprinkled with cumin and cayenne. Two, I found the elusive white sweet potato at our grocery store to start slips from. (More about those in a minute.) And three, I heard a rumor that sweet potato greens are mild and delicious, raw or cooked, similar to spinach. Since the greens can be harvested throughout the growing season, it puts our small space to great use simultaneously growing crops above and below ground.
To start slips, first select your potatoes. We picked up white and traditional orange sweet potatoes from the organic section of our grocery store. I was beyond psyched to see the white sweet potatoes. In the past, I’ve only found them randomly at farmer’s markets. They are a little less sweet and more firm than an orange sweet potato, like a cross between a sweet potato and a white potato.
Next, skewer and place the sweet potato butts in a jar or glass of water. (I’ve read that you can expect up to 50 slips per potato! We are only aiming for 12…) Be sure to put your potatoes in a window that gets lots of direct sunlight.
Then, wait patiently. Our sweet potatoes had roots within a few days, but took forever to sprout the slips. This is Jimbo and Ella after 17 days. You can barely see little eyes sprouting up by Jimbo’s Sharpie eyebrows.
After 6 weeks, we are ready to remove the slips to root them so they can be planted.
You can see Jimbo has a full fro, but Ella only has a few slips. Not sure why. Perhaps Ella was sprayed to prevent sprouting? (And if you needed a reason to start growing your own potatoes, knowing your dinner wasn’t treated with aerosol is a good one.)
Carefully remove each slip, twisting it off of the potato. Then, place the slips in fresh water, making sure to remove any leaves or small stems that would otherwise be submerged.
Now we wait again. I decided to put Jimbo and Ella back in water so they could grow backup slips. The transplant mortality rate in our garden is a little dismal. Within a few days, the slips should have roots. Here are ours two days later!
They should be ready to plant in a week or two, once the roots are about an inch long. Stay tuned for the planting post…