How To Harvest Sweet Potatoes - Backyard Boss
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How To Harvest Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes are delicious root vegetables that hold a sweet and starchy flavor. These vegetables are easy to grow at home and yield a great harvest in autumn. Once harvested, sweet potatoes can last from four to seven months if stored properly. Harvesting and storing sweet potatoes is easy, and taking the right steps can help you make the most out of your harvest. 

This article will teach you everything you need to know on how to harvest sweet potatoes and how to store them properly. 

What You Will Need: 

sweet potato bunch
Image credits: ivabalk via Pixabay

Before you go digging through the dirt to pull up some sweet potatoes, made sure you have the right tools.

  • Shovel or spading fork 
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Container or wheelbarrow 
  • Newspaper or tarp 
  • Cardboard boxes or paper bags. 

Step 1. Inspect Your Plants

potato field
Image credits: Annie Spratt via Unsplash

To determine if your sweet potatoes are ready to harvest you will first need to inspect the leaves of the plant. Sweet potatoes should be ready to harvest when the leaves begin to turn yellow. If you live in a cooler climate, sweet potatoes should be harvested before the first frost. Frost can damage the top of the plant and cause rot to travel down to the root.

Sweet potatoes have a long growing season and generally take 90 to 120 days to grow. If planted in spring they should be ready to harvest in early autumn.  

Once the leaves have begun to turn yellow, gather a shovel or spading fork and get ready to harvest.

Step 2. Harvest 

harvesting potatoes into a red bucket
Image credits: Mark Stebnicki via Pexels

Sweet potatoes should be harvested when the soil is dry to reduce the risk of rot. Make sure to wear gloves (if you prefer) as harvesting root vegetables can be messy. Using a shovel or spading fork gently dig into the dirt five to six inches beside the base of the plant. Next form a circle around the plant by gently digging. Remember to be careful while digging into the dirt, as small scrapes on the sweet potatoes can cause spoilage. If you do happen to damage the skin of a sweet potato, make sure to cook it within one or two days before it spoils. If you don’t damage your potatoes in the process they can stay good for up to six months.

Begin to move away the soil and lift the plant gently with your hand. Make sure to sift through the soil with your hands to make sure you haven’t missed any potatoes. Once you have your sweet potatoes above ground, make sure to shake off and brush away any excess dirt. 

Do not wash the potatoes as this will add moisture that can cause rot and disease. Instead collect them in a container and set up your drying station. 

Step 3. Curing Sweet Potatoes

Grilled sweet potato in wooden basket put on soil background.
Image credit: Piyaset via Shutterstock

Sweet potatoes will have a longer shelf-life if left to dry prior to storing. This process of drying potatoes is called curing. Curing will help prevent rot and disease by forming a thin layer over scratches. Your sweet potatoes should be cured for one to two weeks before collecting them for storage.

You can either cure your sweet potatoes outside in the sun or inside your home if you have room. Curing outside is suitable for sunny locations with no rainfall forecasted during the curing period. If you are curing sweet potatoes in the sun you can lay a tarp down on the grass or a table; elevating your sweet potatoes on a table as they cure can reduce the risk of pests and critters eating your fresh harvest.

If you cure your sweet potatoes indoors you can lay newspaper down on a table and place the potatoes on top. Make sure to evenly space each potato and put a fan in the room to improve air circulation. If any of the potatoes are bruised after curing, throw them in the compost as they will soon spoil. 

Step 4. Storing Sweet Potatoes 

sweet potatoes in a box
Image credits: Kindel Media via Pexels

Sweet potatoes last the longest if they are kept in a dark and dry place with good ventilation. Basements and root cellars make the perfect location for storing root vegetables due to their cooler temperature. If you don’t have a root cellar or basement, you can store them in a dry container in a cupboard. If you are storing sweet potatoes in your kitchen make sure they are stored away from your stove as heat can reduce shelf-life. 

You can place your dry sweet potatoes next to each other in a cardboard box, or wrap each individually in newspaper. Wrapping each potato individually will help protect from moisture. Additionally, if each are wrapped individually and one begins to spoil, its excess moisture will not transfer to another. 

You may store your potatoes in a refrigerator, but we do not recommend this as it may reduce shelf-life and diminish flavor. 

The Sweet Life!

Sweet potatoes are an excellent root vegetable that will provide fresh produce during autumn and winter months. You can add this lovely vegetable to soup, stew, or salads. Now that you have learned everything you need to know on harvesting and storing sweet potatoes, we hope you will be able to enjoy your vegetables for longer. 

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to share it with your friends and leave your tips on growing sweet potatoes in the comments below.