Friday, October 22, 2010

Sweet Potato Surprise

All the rain this week reminded me that I wanted to grow more winter wheat this year. The point of the crop is to utilize the free water and spare growing space- there's only so much cabbage and beets I can convince my kids to eat- to at least produce some kind of crop, even if all I use it for is to amuse the chickens. (While I could thresh and winnow the grain and use it for breadmaking, it is much easier to just give the matured stalks to the chickens and let them do their thing with it. It's funny to watch, and it's that much less feed I need to give them.)

One of the sections of garden I wanted to plant was used over the summer to grow a sweet potato vine. I had planted it meaning to grow sweet potatoes, of course. I was told that the vine would put down roots along the length of the vine, and form new tubers at these locations. Well, mine never did. It produced plenty of foliage, which the rabbits really enjoyed eating when I finally got tired of it spreading everywhere, but it never rooted anywhere but where I had planted the original chunk of rooted tuber. So when the weather turned, I ripped up the vine, turned it over to the rabbits, and made a mental note that sweet potatoes had not been a success, at least not in a mild-summered year.

I didn't think about it again until Wednesday. That was when I started pulling the accumulated weeds out of the plot to get it ready for seeds. Pulling out a large patch of spotted spurge, I spotted a flash of orange in the dirt.

Hmm. I'd never seen a weed with an orange root, at least, not a BIG one. I got a hand trowel, dug in, and turned up a sweet potato, paler and pinker than the ones I buy in the store, but definitely a sweet potato. I kept digging, moving a little farther out to try not to damage. More sweets! I finally got my pitchfork and probed the several square feet where the vine had been.

By the time I was done, I had edited my mental note. Sweet potatoes may not do as well here as they do down south, but they do just fine. When you take into account the fact that both their roots and their foliage are useful (roots for us, vines for the rabbits), they are downright wonderfully productive.


  1. You've grown broccoli, right? I had never grown it before last winter, but now I solemnly swear I will grow it every winter for the rest of my life. I never knew how incredible broccoli could be until I ate homegrown italian broc.