Friday, November 21, 2014

Sweet Potato Harvest 2014


This past weekend I decided it was time to harvest the sweet potatoes, because it looked like the last weekend we'd have before a freeze. Even without a freeze, as you can see in the picture above, my sweet potatoes thought it was too cold anyway. They're such tropical plants, that even temperatures under 40 degrees F makes them wilt.

My harvest this year was a bit disappointing. Still not as good as what I got in 2010. I'll have enough to eat for the holidays, but not the bumper crop I was hoping for.

I planted slips I grew from three varieties I got last year from Duck Creek Farms: Garnet, Molokai Purple, and Carolina Nugget. I discontinued White Yam because it didn't do well at all.

This year they ranked about the same as last year. Garnet was the best, followed by Molokai Purple, followed by Carolina Nugget.

Garnet/Dianne

Again this was my best variety, with a few specimens getting pretty large. Nice bright red skin. I'll keep growing this one unless/until I find a better orange variety.

Molokai Purple

This variety also did well again. Love the color! Now I have enough to actually do a taste comparison between purple and orange sweet potatoes. In 2010 I learned that White Yam was much drier and firmer than orange sweet potatoes. It made excellent sweet potato fries, while orange sweet potatoes can sometimes fall apart when they cook (fine if you're mashing them, but bad for fries). I'm interested to see what purple sweet potatoes are like in flavor and texture.

Carolina Nugget

Again Carolina Nugget was OK but not great. I got a few nice-looking potatoes, but not many. I gave it a second chance, but now I've decided to discontinue it. It's too similar to Garnet, but inferior, so out it goes.

For new varieties to try, I ordered three from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: Sweetie Pie, O'Henry, and Violetta. They came in bundles of six plants each, but sadly none of them did well.


Sweetie Pie

This is another ordinary orange variety, but unlike Garnet it has normal leaves instead of ivy leaves. I only got one root that wasn't split (the one at the top right of the picture), but it did get damaged by my digging fork. The rest were badly split all over.

This may not be completely their fault. This variety was right next to a big leak in the soaker hose, so when the sweet potatoes were watered, they got flooded. I didn't realize it would make that big of a difference, but maybe that's what split them.

Still, they went in the compost pile. I'll stick with Garnet for my orange variety for now.

O'Henry

This was my attempt to find another white variety, but as you can see, it turned out to be pretty pathetic.


Violetta

I don't even have a picture for Violetta. I think all the plants for this one died. I couldn't find any. It was supposed to be a variety with purple skin and white flesh. I was curious to find out what a potato like that would taste like (more like a purple or like a white?), but I guess I'll have a try another one next year.


Conclusions

I'm keeping Molokai Purple and Garnet again for next year, but that's it. They didn't give quite the bumper crop I wanted, but still did respectably, especially compared to all the other varieties I tried this year.

The plants I got from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange weren't quite as good as Duck Creek Farms. DCF's slips were in excellent condition when they arrived, while SESE's slips were in more typical condition for slips that just spent some time packed up in a box. I'm not sure if DCF does something special to help their plants make the journey, or if I was just lucky that time. I'm also not sure if it matters all that much, since the slips I grew in 2010 were from Shumway's, and they looked more like SESE's slips, but ended up growing just fine.

Another problem was DEER! The deer feasted on the sweet potato leaves several times before I discovered I Must Garden Deer Repellent. Even though the plants grew back, I'm sure having to regrow all those leaves diverted a lot of resources away from growing lots of roots.

Finally, Bermudagrass is starting to invade my raised beds. It was especially bad on the side where I planted the new varieties from SESE. I hate that stuff! It's coming in from the surrounding lawn. A project on my to-do list is to put landscape fabric and mulch around all the raised beds so that there isn't grass right next to them.

I'm already wondering which new sweet potato varieties I should try next year. Should I get some other varieties from Duck Creek Farms, since they did so well? Should I try a different place, like Sand Hill Preservation Center? Should I go back to Shumway's and get more White Yam since they did so well in 2010?

In the meantime, I think this year I'll make sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving.

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