Saturday, May 1, 2010

Everybody Loves Sweet Potatoes!

Did you ever wish you could buy sweet potato seeds from your garden store? Well, they’re not available yet, unfortunately.

However, you can make wonderful sweet potato plants!--and if you do it right, and you have a nice, warm, well-drained soil for the plants to mature in, you can get some nice results. Here’s how:

Buy a sweet potato from your farm market and stick toothpicks in it all round, about 1/3 of the way to the end. Be sure the pointed end is down. Place the potato into a container with a narrow neck, so that the toothpicks-- or chopsticks or whatever--will support it with 1/3 of it standing above the water and 2/3 submerged. Stand on a bright windowsill or table, and leave it alone. Make sure you keep the water level constant.

Pretty soon you should start seeing little red-and-green leaves coming right through the skin. Be glad. Keep watching. They will grow out into long, slender vines with pretty leaves on them. Here in the South, people used to grow them just for their beauty, but then some smart-aleck spread the rumor that they were bad luck, and the practice fell off somewhat. My guess is, they’re only bad luck if you don’t know what to do with them, or if you drop the container on your spouse’s favorite recliner an hour before the Big Game.

We’re going to suppose that you have light, well-drained and well-enriched soil outside, in your big container, or in your greenhouse; or wherever you intend to grow the sweet potatoes. When the vines are about 14 inches long, detach them from the plant (you can either cut or pull them) and plunge the part you cut/pulled off into a container of clean water. Put them in a bright place and leave them alone. Just keep the water level constant, as before.

Pretty soon, thin white roots will start spreading out from the bottoms of the vines, and they will just fill the jar; this is when you know you are ready to plant them. Be sure you wait until all danger of frost is past, and then put them in. They need nice loose sandy soil and full sun all day long. If your soil isn’t sandy, buy some play sand (be sure it’s not salty!) and mix it in, or use some other additives, like vermiculite, to loosen the soil.

Keep them well-watered but don’t drown them.

You can get a nice harvest of sweet potatoes this way from just one sweet potato if you’re willing to do the work. I love doing it.

Here’s what to do with your sweet potatoes once you’ve grown them:
(Please don’t try this with canned sweet potatoes—really! You will be so-o-o-sorry!)

This is one recipe that couldn’t be simpler!

1 (2-3 #) pork roast 4-5 large sweet potatoes
6-8 fresh garlic cloves olive oil for searing the roast
2 parts Salt white wine, chicken broth or water as needed
1 part black pepper (Be sure to put some of it in the food)
Flour as needed (about 1 c)


Peel the potatoes and put the peels in your compost container. Unwrap the roast and wipe dry with paper towers or a very clean non-lint cloth towel. Place the roast on a cutting board and cover with a towel. Smash and peel the garlic and cut lengthwise into three slices. Reserve. Mix salt and pepper in a small bowl. Reserve. Cut 18-24 pockets into the roast by plunging a paring knife about ¾ way through it. DO NOT GO ALL THE WAY THROUGH.

With the handle of a tsp, pick up a little of the salt/pepper mix and put it into one of the pockets, followed by one slice of garlic. Repeat with each pocket, then mix remaining salt/pepper mix with the flour. Dredge the roast in the flour this way: put the seasoned flour into a gallon-sized zipper-locking plastic bag and put the roast in on top of it. Then roll the bag around until the roast is covered with flour.) Shake off the excess flour.

In a heavy aluminum or cast-iron Dutch Oven or roasting pot, heat enough oil to cover the bottom (and up the sides when you tilt the pot.) You should not need more than four Tbsps. Brown the roast well on all sides until the whole roast is a nice, dark golden brown. Turn down the heat to medium low and add about a cup or two of wine, water or broth.

Cover the pot, leaving the cover offset a bit so the steam can escape, and relax. Check it every 10 or 15 minutes and add liquid as needed. Move ther roast around with tongs from tinme to time so it doesn’t stick. The roast will shrink slightly when it’s about ready, and that’s when you can pierce it with a kitchen fork. Do this twice at most or your meat will be dry.

When the juices run clear, place the sweet potato halves around the roast and let it cook until the fork meets no resistance when you try to pierce the sweet potatoes.

Remove from the heat and allow the roast to repose (rest off the heat) before you try to slice it. When you do, make sure your cutting board has a gravy-gutter to catch all those yummy juices. Serve them with the sweet potatoes.

Present this with some wonderful green veggie—broccoli, mustard greens, or Brussels Sprouts—sweet cornbread, and whatever you choose to drink. With this meal, who cares?


  1. Okay, this has GOT to stop! Each time I read one of your recipes, I gain 5 pounds!! But, seriously, this sounds wonderful! Also, getting sweet potato plants from a regular sweet potato? Who knew? Maybe I'll grow a USEFUL houseplant, for once!! BTW, can you use old tires as a planter for the sweet potatoes? I saw someone doing this for regular potatoes once, but I wasn't sure if it was safe, or what. Is there a benefit to doing it that way, or should I just stick to dirt in the ground (the kind you said, of course! LOL)?

  2. Hi, "Milli!"
    Yes, I've heard the stack of tires trick for white potatoes before. In fact, I'm going to do a post on exactly that pretty soon. I don't see any reason why the tire stack method wouldnt work for sweet potatoes, provided the soil was light and sandy enough, and stayed well-watered. Why not give it a try, and let us know what success you have? We'll be looking forward to hearing from you--and thanks for writing!