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Growing Guide: Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

The time to harvest your sweet potatoes is when the leaves start to yellow and start sporting purple spots.

Keep in mind that the longer a crop is left in the ground, the higher the yield and vitamin content, but frost will kill tubers and your hopes for having homegrown sweet potatoes. Harvest sweet potatoes before the first frost of the fall season.

Harvest

  • Stop watering sweet potatoes 3-4 days before harvest.
  • On a day when the soil is dry, gently pull an entire hill of potatoes out by the stems of the vine; or you can cut and pull the vines to dig the potatoes out by hand.
  • Handle sweet potatoes gently so they don’t bruise, snap, or become wounded.
  • Do not wash harvested sweet potatoes – extra water can cause potatoes to mold and slow curing times.
  • Dry sweet potatoes outside in the sun on a paper bag or on a cardboard box for up to two hours.
  • Cure sweet potatoes at 80-90 degrees in a well-ventilated, dry, & dark area for 1-2 weeks.  Curing sweet potatoes allows the starches to turn to sugar so they become sweet, just as you imagined.
  • After curing, sweet potatoes can be stored around 55-60 degrees for up to 12 months. Do not store in the refrigerator

Uses

  • Both the tubers and leaves of the sweet potato plant are edible.
  • Newly unearthed sweet potatoes are missing the sweetness we expect when consuming them. Curing sweet potatoes allows starches within the potato to be converted into sugar. Have students taste and compare freshly harvested sweet potatoes and cured sweet potatoes.
  • Keep 2-3 sweet potatoes in storage to start the growing process for the following summer.